Good Tweet/ Bad Tweet. Is Twitter Worth the Risks?

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According to a recent SEC ruling, telling the truth is no longer illegal.

Yes, you read that correctly. After Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, posted a factual 43-word message on Facebook, the SEC wanted to prosecute him. Then, they decided not to. “The risk of going to jail for disclosing accurate information is a relic of a regulatory approach that makes no sense now that digitally distributed information is easily accessible by all,” L. Gordon Crovitz wrote in The Wall Street Journal (The SEC Decriminalizes Facebook Postings, April 9, 2013).

The SEC’s Regulation FD mandates that material facts cannot be selectively disclosed, selectively being the operative word. By the end of this year, about one billion people will have a Facebook account—not your average group of clandestine inside traders. According to Crovitz, “the playing field for information is flatter than ever. The Netflix case raises the broader question of why regulators still claim any power to limit truthful speech.”

Threat of SEC sanctions has made many risk managers and executives skittish about social media. Last year, one company fired its CFO for posting “Board meeting. Good numbers = Happy Board” on Facebook. At least with the Netflix ruling, it’s now OK for executives to log on to their favorite social media platforms without using an alias.

The worry is far from over, however. With social media, we’re unprotected from the greatest risk of all—ourselves. There are many personal foibles that enter the picture, but it’s quicker to just blame naiveté.

Our still-primitive social skills haven’t adjusted to modern technology. Information ubiquity, amplification and data storage have cursed our social interactions. Propelled into cyberspace in real-time, our conversational indiscretions can’t be hidden. Instead, our mistakes are indelibly etched in digital granite. And no platform presents greater problems than Twitter. In fact, of Mashable.com’s eleven greatest social media disasters of 2012, nine involved wayward Tweeting, each of which I’ve summarized in less than 140 characters:

1. With McdStories, “McDonald’s paid to promote a trend that showered the company in bad publicity.” #oops

2. Snickers paid celebrities in the UK to tweet pictures of themselves eating Snickers bars. Not allowed. #illegal.

3. American Rifleman posted a pro-gun tweet as the mass shooting in Aurora CO was unfolding. #dumb #whatweretheythinking

4. CelebBoutique posted a promotional Tweet using #Aurora to exploit a trending topic, without knowing why it was trending. #insensitive #stupid

5. A Microsoft employee criticized conservative pundit Ann Coulter from Microsoft’s Twitter account, not from his own. #oops

6. A KitchenAid employee made a disparaging Tweet about Obama’s grandmother. #firethisidiot

7. A Stubhub employee used the f-word in a company Tweet. #firethisidiot

8. American Apparel offered discounts to ‘bored customers’ during Hurricane Sandy. #insensitive #stupid

9. At the height of Hurricane Sandy, the Gap encouraged people to do online shopping. #idiotic

Somewhere, somehow, somebody will Tweet something stupid.—a corollary to Murphy’s Law for the digerati. The ol’ slip of the tongue, seen by 13,797 followers, and archived into perpetuity for anyone to search for and share.

Are Twitter faux pas worth the risk? After all, one good online statement probably won’t increase revenue, but one bad statement can tank a campaign, or more. Break out the Maalox! But before you drink the whole bottle, read up on some ways to manage the risks:

1. Don’t Tweet. Ask whether you’re getting value from Twitter. If there isn’t much, pull the plug.

2. Limit Tweeting to a select few employees. More is not always merrier. Sure, you want your employees engaged in conversations about your company. Just be careful what you wish for, because conversations can be hard to control.

3. Think twice, Tweet once. Unless you want your follow-on tweet to be an apology for the first.

4. Don’t drink and Tweet. In Vino, Veritas. In wine, the truth. Next time you’re sidled up to the bar, remind your staff. Then re-read #3.

5. Audit the social media posts for your employees and prospective employees, and call out issues right away. If something seems wrong, it probably is wrong.

6. Specify clear boundaries for Twitter posts, and put your policies in writing. Hint: community interests can change quickly, so it’s easier to specify what’s not acceptable than to list what is.

7. Keep corporate Twitter accounts and personal Twitter accounts separate. You’ll have a much easier time enforcing your policies. If your employees do mingle personal and corporate conversations, ask them to include the disclaimer, “opinions are my own, and not my company’s,” in their Twitter profile.

8. Be aware—be very aware—of your corporate legal liabilities. An earlier blog, Human Talent or Party Animal? When an Employee’s Social Media Content Becomes a Legal Liability, offers more information.

There’s a high likelihood that you, or someone in your organization, will make a Twitter gaffe this year. After all, we’re only human. But technology is cold and uncaring, and the impact can be high, to say the least. Twitter could use a feature that can filter transmissions. “This comment is inane. Are you still sure you want to send it?” For now, we take our chances, hoping we don’t have to pick up after any errant missives by explaining what we meant to say, or should have said.

High likelihood, high impact—what keeps risk managers up at night. With that in mind, an ounce of prevention—or with Twitter, an ounce of discretion—is worth a pound of cure.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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