Happy Doodle or Real Life: Questioning Twitter Boundaries

“I’m calling you because I’m in the happy doodle business. This guy wants to get serious. Maybe you can help him. Here’s his number”

That’s the call I got late one afternoon from a well-regarded PR agency that specializes in happy stories. But, life isn’t always happy, fun or pretty – even though some PR people would like it to be.

It turns out I couldn’t help this guy, either. He had some environmental and legal PR issues that were way beyond our scope. But, I did take the time to talk to him and caution him about the reactions his company might get when they took the story to the press. That was before social media.

When I talk to people about getting started in social media, I tell them to think about layering. If you’re wearing 20 sweaters, how many are you willing to take off before you feel comfortable? Some people are fine in a bathing suit and others will always, always, always stay bundled up.

In social media, the more bundled up you are, the less likely you are to succeed. But, the more open you are, the more open you are to getting rebuked and attacked. “I broke out in a cold sweat when I saw what people were saying about people who sent auto-follow message on twitter. I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong.” a well-meaning and well-respected marketing advisor – who is in no way a spammer – told me.

Now we’re watching the reaction to a twitter update sent by a Ketchum employee about his experience in Memphis. [Disclaimer: Ketchum featured one of our clients in their client’s publication.] How can one tiny update get so much attention?

I feel for the guy. Maybe he shouldn’t have typed what he did, but why not learn from, forgive and forget? Is it time to stop writing social media tabloid posts?

The biggest lesson here is a simple one: never be negative about anything clients might be sensitive about anywhere, especially in a twitter update clients are watching and you’re on your way to their offices to teach them about social media. The tricky part: might be sensitive about . . . sometimes you don’t know until you step in it. 

Do we always have to be nice and happy? How do you set up your social media boundaries?

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