21 Lessons Learned from SM SNAFUs

Last year I wrote about 10 things to consider when using SM (ok, it was mostly about Twitter) as a staple in your communication toolkit. I would consider this a companion post. Actually it was part of the “10 things post” but my buddy and post-partner, Paul, likes to break the goodness into smaller chunks from time to time.

fig. 1. A long-forgotten mistweet from the verified account of a major U.S. metropolitan police force.

fig. 1. A long-forgotten mistweet from the verified account of a major U.S. metropolitan police force.

21 Lessons Learned

(because who doesn’t like arbitrarily numbered lists?!)

  1. Assume your employer will see everything you post online.
  2. If you’re posting in an official capacity, or identify your employer on a personal feed, you should follow your organization’s security, propriety and policy rules.
  3. Be careful “weighing in” on SM disasters while they’re in progress – you could be sucked into the vortex, as well.
  4. When you take over management of an organizational SM account, go through past posts to make sure they meet your employer’s SM policies. Remove what doesn’t, but archive in accordance with those same SM policies.
  5. Your deleted posts can still be accessed by savvy users using cached search engine pages (fig. 1).
  6. Assume anyone can read what you post, immediately after you post it. If you only want to communicate with a select group of people, use privacy controls.
  7. Organizations monitor SM with keywords as part of their brand management strategies, so don’t be surprised if you hear back from someone when you tweet that their “pizza is awful,” etc.
  8. Hashtags are fun as part of trendy SM lexicon, but also useful tools people actually use.
  9. Once you use a hashtag, you’ve either just created or joined a sub-community on Twitter or Facebook (or wherever the tool will be implemented next).
  10. Some people pay attention to hashtags – use this knowledge to make your megaphone louder!
  11. Your activity within a particular medium is not confined to that medium – if you’re doing something potentially controversial, be prepared for the jump.
  12. If you’re using personal and professional accounts on the same SM platforms, you need to take measures to make sure you don’t make mistakes. Use different apps for different accounts, set your personal account as the default or segregate accounts by device, if you really need to go that far.
  13. If you are a Famous Person, I’d just like to take this opportunity to say type “Welcome to The Crisis Communicator! I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit! Please come back! Tell your friends!” Also, be careful. Actually, Clooney might be right.
  14. If you are or advise a Person In A Position Of Power, you should carefully consider the risk/benefit tradeoff to having a SM presence.
  15. Don’t feed the trolls.
  16. Every online argument, in the history of online arguments, has been a lose-lose proposition.
  17. Let’s bring back the ‘90s term “Flame War” for these types of incidents.
  18. If you’re in a possibly “love ‘em or hate ‘em” industry, be ready for trolls.
  19. Clearly identify yourself, or your organization, on professional SM accounts
  20. Managers have a responsibility to inform employees of acceptable SM use (even with personal accounts), in regards to employment consequences.
  21. Organizations should have a clearly written SM policy for employees that they can point to when one of their own uses SM haphazardly.

Many people have written about the consequences of tweeting gone bad, have illustrated how a small spark can quickly scorch an individual or organization and have defined some tactics that trolls may use against organizations or individuals. Here are some additional tips that mirror this post, and go beyond.

OK, let me just get up on my Lessons Learned Soapbox for a minute. I wrote the list above in a kind of conversational way. When you actually implement lessons learned (and you should), there’s a few key things to remember in the lessons learned -> best practices -> institutional changes process:

  1. Make your changes about processes instead of people. (Actually, that’s how “official” lessons learned should be written, when you’re hot washing incident response operations or an emergency exercise)
  2. Don’t worry so much about your strategic plans if you’re in a large bureaucracy – most lessons learned/best practices are at the tactical level. Strategic plans: difficult to modify; tactical plans: easy to modify. If your goals remain the same, but there are better ways to reach them, this will keep you on the right track.
  3. Changes in tactics, techniques and procedures require more than just verbiage – have a training plan if you’re looking to make fundamental changes to how you’re achieving your goals.

Talk to me, Goose.

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