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?

Think Twice … Then Think Again

There are a hundred blogs out there that talk about using Twitter for business and what an effective tool it is for customer service. I think that sometimes, we often fail to draw the correlation between using Twitter for business and using Twitter for ourselves. Personally, I have separate Twitter accounts for business and me, and I’ve been known to tweet a certain cable company a time or two for assistance. Why? Because I can get better service from their Twitter account than I can over the phone (which is another blog for another day) but sometimes, I let my fingers fly before I really think about it. I’ve seen people just lose it on businesses before and I try not to do that. I’m learning, as I go along, how to think before I tweet… and then how to think again. Next time, before you tweet, ask yourself:

  1. If this were sent to my business Twitter account, how would I feel? Would I feel attacked – like I haven’t been given a chance to correct the issue, before finding some nasty @ replies to me? I know you’re upset and you feel like you haven’t gotten outstanding service, but if it’s the first time you’ve contacted the business about the issue, give them a chance to fix your problem, before you get upset.
  2. What am I really upset about? Is this a problem that you are continuing to have with the business that never seems to get fixed correctly? Take my cable company issue – it’s the same and only problem that I ever seem to have. The same problem over and over again leads me to Tweet.

If you can’t give yourself solid answers to these two questions, then you should probably walk away from your computer. Blasting a business for the sake of blasting them isn’t going to get you very far and it’s not going to do you any favors. I think we have all been guilty of saying something that we didn’t mean to say and Twitter is a really powerful tool for connecting with the people we do business with – but that doesn’t mean that sometimes, we don’t say things that we shouldn’t. Do you think before you Tweet?