How to Manage Twitter During News Worthy Events

Social media networks like Twitter and Facebook have been a huge boost to information spreading. More than once, I've seen Twitter get ahead of the regular media channels like television when it comes to breaking events. This can be a great thing but there can be some drawbacks when it comes to sharing information on your social networks. Before you go to rush sending or retweeting something, here are three things to double check before you push out a notification to your followers.

Verify before you Retweet

One of the worst things about Twitter is the desire to be "first" on a breaking event. We all make mistakes when we RT things, but there are some people who will see buzz around a topic, go to a Google images search, and retweet an old or incorrect photo of something. Before you hit that send button, make sure that the image you are sharing isn’t from a prior event being incorrectly associated to something current. Additionally, make sure whatever tidbit you are about to send is true. The University of Washington recently published a study that showed the rapid spread of misinformation in the wake of 2013’s Boston Marathon Bombing.

Credit the Right Person

As images and updates start to make their way around, sometimes the image ends up not getting credited to the right person. Recently, a striking photo was taken from a Frisco Rough Riders game and was tweeted out by a local news organization. The picture gained traction quickly and even landed on the front page of the popular sports blog, Deadspin. The problem is that the image wasn’t sourced to the person who took the picture and originally posted it. When a photo is posted, unless otherwise stated, the rights to that photo are from the original person who sent it out and failing to properly credit could land you in copyright trouble with Twitter.

Check the Timestamp

It’s important when you’re sharing information during a newsworthy event that you are only sharing the most recent information. During severe weather awareness week, the National Weather Service conducted a test of retweets and Facebook shares with a “mock” tornado warning. The good news was that the message reached over 800,000 people on both networks – the bad part was that was over a time period of twelve hours, when the average advance notice on a tornado warning is 15 minutes. Before you hit the RT button, take an extra second to see how old it is. In terms of a tornado warning, if it’s older than thirty minutes, it’s out of date and doesn’t need to be sent. It’s the same with any other breaking news event – things change quickly and before you retweet, you need to ensure that you’re sending only the most recent updates.

Do you pause before you hit the send button? What do you do to make sure that being first doesn’t mean that you are sending out old or incorrect information?

The Public Relations Mess Clorox Can’t Seem to Clean

I’m not afraid to admit I have a deep affection for cleaning. Most people who do have a "scent of choice". Personally, I love the smell of Pine Sol. I picked up a new bottle a few weeks ago, noting the “longer lasting scent” label. Great, right?

The problem is that it smells nothing like my favorite smell. In fact, the "longer lasting scent" down right stinks. After some complaining, I decided to see if I was just being picky, and went to the Pine Sol Facebook community. I found vindication in other fans feeling like the new stuff is awful.

Given some of the responses from customers and the brand responses, it appears that the people at Clorox (the makers of Pine Sol) have created a bit of a disaster, and they are breaking all the rules when it comes to a social media crisis. In fact, it’s the public relations disaster you haven’t heard about.

PR happens on the web now, and if you’re not prepared to respond, you might have a blow back that you didn’t expect or want. Here are some key takeaways from what I’ve witnessed to their response in the middle of a customer crisis.

If you don’t provide a reason or a message - your community will hunt one down for you. The problem with communities is that they can sometimes be wrong about a companies motivation for a particular move. It’s your job as a brand representative to provide the message so that the community doesn’t make up their own.

Using a form response to address the aforementioned concerns is usually a bad move. The form response being used by the social media managers on this page are especially unforgiving, because the only thing that is changed is the name. It goes a little something like this: "Hi, this is *NAME* and we understand your concerns, but we totally user tested it and everyone loved it. It’s also better than before."

Deleting / Removing negative comments only make you look worse. When you make a move that upsets your customers (no matter if you plan on sticking with it or reverting) it’s better to accept the criticism, rather than try to hide it. Rejecting a negative review is only going to make the situation seem suspicious. You need to be prepared to respond to any comments - good or bad.

Even though you probably haven’t heard about this public relations mess, hopefully some of these take always will be something you can apply and be ready for in the event you come across a similar situation. What PR situation have you learned from?

Communication Relationship: How Social Media Can Affect Our Skills

And What We Can Do To Get Back to the Basics.

Something horrible happened this weekend. I was downtown with a friend having a great time and when she said something funny, I responded by saying, “L-O-L!” My hand clapped over my mouth in shame. What was this? I’m a communications professional and I write about presenting in front of large audiences and now, here I am, busting out “chat speak” in the middle of my conversations. This is an unacceptable influence that texting and social media are having on my communication skills.

I’m almost certain this same influence is bleeding over into my written communication as well. Email correspondence and written letters (yes – I still send things that way) have been effected not only by the dominance of Twitter, SMS messaging, and Facebook in my life, but also in general by my proximity to the computer and smart phone. Things like spelling and punctuation are suddenly less of a concern because something with an artificial brain will now think for me.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln studied a similar phenomenon in regards to the use of calculators in the classroom. A teacher working on their MAT noticed that assessment scores were low for sections on the tests that did not allow the use of calculators and decided to test the theory that technology was taking the students too far from the “basics”. In the end, the teacher found that there was an increase in non-calculator related sections of tests. (It should be noted that her findings were small and didn’t move her to abdicate removal of calculators from the classroom).

Now, I don’t care about math because I’ve never been very good at it, with or without the calculator, but I do care that technology can have detrimental effects on both communication and social skills. And while I support and love the growth of social media – the fact remains that when you find a “new” way of doing things, you forget the “old” ways. (Do you think a five year old would know what to do with a record or an 8-track?) So while you’re Tweeting and texting, take a few moments to keep your communication skills fresh.

  • Write something on paper. Step away from the keyboard. Sometimes, I just can’t help but go old school and write things out on paper. I feel like it helps me to get a better flow when I’m writing and I can always go back and type it later.
  • Make a phone call. If you are at the point where the same question has been asked twice, it’s time to pick up the phone and give your friend a call. There’s a pretty good chance that the person on the other end of the conversation is now inferring your responses with emotions and confusion. It’s time to let your voice take over the communication – a little bit of inflection goes a long way in clearing up the confusion.
  • Read a book. Personally, I prefer the bound with glue and paper kind to unwind and step away from technology, but if you’re going to use an e-reader, make sure it’s a dedicated device (we like the Kindle from Amazon). The reason for this is because you don’t want anything to disrupt you while you’re reading. Using a device like the iPad keeps you exposed to email, Words with Friends updates, and Facebook notifications.

Do you think your communication has been affected by technology? Are you trying to get back to having those basic skills of writing and speaking to others without the technology buffer zone? What kind of tips do you have?

Image Credit to scubasteveo on Flickr.