Kenneth Cole tweets

I don’t care what people say, Twitter is a wonderful place full of information, news, quick-witted responses, humor and interaction.

Here’s the one thing to remember about Twitter (slash the Internet in general). It isn’t making us stupider or smarter, it’s just making more stuff. The era of self-published content has destroyed the barrier to entry to publish and broadcast, and brands, media, celebrities and individuals are one button away from saying anything to a global audience.

Lots of good in that, but when you take out that many steps between “instant thought” and “sharing it with everyone” it isn’t a surprise that tweets that err in information, humanity or judgment sneak their way out there fairly often. Whether it’s an overactive legislator, a social media consultant who has their Tweetdeck linked to your company’s account or a hacked news organization, there are no shortage of examples when it comes to the dangers of pressing Tweet too quickly. The fact of the matter is that all the deleting in the world won’t undo the damage.

There has been clamoring for a “retraction” option as part of the service. It would notify people who have retweeted or replied to your tweet that the contact was removed and/or corrected. The idea has its supporters, but put me in the same camp as Matthew Ingram of GigaOm: it isn’t a correction feature that we need and it in no way would actually change things (Ingram mentions Craig Silverman of Regret the Error’s point that “the correction never travels as far as the mistake”).

Social media managers, senators and spokespeople, listen up: the moral of this story is that you one wrong tweet can ruin a brand or career pretty dang quickly and it is hard to forget (it took me three seconds to find a screen cap of the Kenneth Cole tweet from two years ago that leads this post). Protect your passwords, be thoughtful and for crissakes take a glance at Google on a trending hashtag before affixing it to you, your company or your client’s tweet. To repurpose that old contractor’s maxim, Measure Twice, Tweet Once.

Final point: please also skip this rubbish about “deleting” a tweet so it can be seen more. You can’t fake a Streisand Effect. That will work once and then we’ll catch on to the Social Media Manager Who Cried Wolf really fast. Leave the stunts at home and replace it with information that actually interests your followers. Utility is a much more meaningful gambit and your audience will trust you aren’t trying to pull a fast one for attention.

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