Social media means that what you say is seen instantly, by many people. A passing remark said out loud to a couple of people will rarely go any further. On Twitter however, tweets can be seen by, not just your followers, but whoever follows them if its shared and re-tweeted, and then by their followers, and so on and so on. It is a network after all.
A passing tweet, even if its deleted, will be noticed, remembered and shared.
Stephanie Rice, the Australian gold medal winning swimmer has recently discovered this, costing her a lucrative sponsorship deal with Jaguar.
An offensive homophobic tweet about Australia’s win over South Africa in a rugby match on Saturday, angered twitter users and then hit the media.
On Monday Jaguar Australia announced that it had terminated its relationship with Stephanie Rice despite her later apology for the tweet
Rice is not the only person to have fallen on the wrong side of the Twitterati.
One false tweet and you could loose not just a sponsorship deal, but your job. Comic Catherine Deveny tweeted live from the Australian TV awards that "I do so hope Bindi Irwin gets laid". People were none too happy that she was talking about the 11 year old daughter of Australian icon Steve Irwin in such a way. She was fired as a columnist for The Age newspaper.
CNNs senior Middle East correspondent Octavia Nasr was fired for tweeting “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah One of Hezbollahs giants I respect a lot”. She received flack for apparently sympathising with a terrorist organisation, and even after spending 20 years with the network, and clarifying her personal opinion on the matter, she lost her job.
Of course individuals are entitled to their opinion, but on Twitter what you say will be held against you, particularly if you’re associated with a big name brand or large media company. It’s understandable that companies will want to protect themselves from negative coverage like this
Sometimes companies don’t need help from individuals to ruin their image though. For BP Twitter became the place to criticise their disastrous oil spill and its PR coverage. A fake BP Twitter account appeared which gained more followers than the real BP account with tweets such as “The ocean looks just a bit slimmer today”; “Dressing it in black really did the trick!”; and “please do NOT take or clean any oil you find on the beach. That is the property of British Petroleum and we WILL sue you”.
What you say on Twitter matters, whether it’s your own reputation, or someone elses.
Always think before you tweet.
Published on behalf of Lynsey Barber