I ran across several interesting posts yesterday on the social media conversation front. Some of them made me nod my head in agreement, but one of them made me absolutely cringe. Once again, watching someone's mistakes reminds us all of the need to listen to our mothers when it comes to how we interact with social media.
Yesterday afternoon I came across a post by Alan Rimm-Kaufman talking about how we're judged by what we write in the online world. Alan was playing off a post by Seth Godin, but was mostly focusing on a post Peter Shankman made about Ketchum's James Andrews and his poor choice of Twitter commentary during a recent trip to FedEx headquarters.
It all started when Andrews made this Tweet shortly after arriving in Memphis:
True confession but I'm in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say "I would die if I had to live here!"
What Andrews didn't realize was a FedEx employee who was attending his presentation for the FedEx communications team saw his Tweet and passed it along to other members of the management team. The response from the FedEx team was swift. It read, in part:Not knowing exactly what prompted your comments, I will admit the area around our airport is a bit of an eyesore, not without crime, prostitution, commercial decay, and a few potholes. But there is a major political, community, religious, and business effort underway, that includes FedEx, to transform that area. We're hopeful that over time, our city will have a better "face" to present to visitors.
It's a cringe worthy response...one that left me feeling a bit embarrassed for Andrews. After all, who among us hasn't shared our thoughts on a subject without really thinking it through. Granted, anyone who is going to speak on social media or online marketing to a company like FedEx should be familiar enough with the concept of a public forum to watch what they say...but at the same time, we all insert a foot in our mouth now and then. Andrews offers up his final take on the situation on his blog.
Andrews' blunder serves as a powerful reminder to the rest of us though. Social media IS a public forum and anything you say can (and likely will) be used against you in the court of public opinion. Not knowing Andrews, I have no way of knowing whether he was joking around or speaking with destain. Of course that's kind of the point, isn't it? The FedEx team he was coming to speak with likely didn't know either. Nor would many of his followers.
That's why in the world of social media, you need to remember an important lesson your mom probably taught you growing up.
Think Before You Speak
I have no problem believing Andrews probably didn't mean his comments quite the way the FedEx team took them. Then again, isn't that usually the case when we offend someone? That's where the entire idea of thinking before you speak comes from. We can never know how someone else is going to interpret our words. Add in the fact that words are written (no voice inflection) and are limited in their context and you've got a recipe for disaster.
While social media is all about being yourself and being real, it's still essential to carefully consider the things you say. You need to remember you are speaking to a public forum and anyone who wants to look can find out what you've said.
Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, forums, blogs and the zillions of other places you can share your opinion aren't closed forums. You never know who is reading them. Beyond that, you never know who will come in down the line and go back and read what you wrote weeks, months or even years ago. Think before you speak. If you can think of someone you wouldn't' want to hear you say what you're about to say...you probably shouldn't say it in a social media venue.
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Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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