Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What @GovSamBrownback and @EmmaKate988 Taught Us About Social Networking

While social networking for businesses all day, every day, I have seen plenty of the good, the bad and the ugly on Twitter.  In light of 18 yr old high school senior, Emma Sullivan's recent disparaging tweet, while at the Kansas Youth in Government in Topeka, KS allegedly during a school field trip for Shawnee Mission East (I'm an SME graduate), I couldn't help be take an interest.

The tweet: "Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person. #heblowsalot"

Thoughtless Tweet by Teen + Bad Response from Governor's Office = Train Wreck I had to watch

Now that the dust is beginning to settle, I can only hope everyone, and I mean everyone, learned a few lessons.

1. This is probably the most important lesson - what you post on social networks is out there for EVERYONE. (even if it's a private account, someone else can retweet it and it POW, it's out there again.)  Emma said "that tweet was for my audience."  Her account was open and not private.  Therefore anyone could view it.  I'm constantly surprised people still think those following them only see their info. Like Emma, many people simply forget how this works. So I'm equally as surprised when they get upset.  It's like the girl who wears the super short mini skirt and then gets mad when we stop and stare and blurts out "what are you looking at?!". If it was meant for her friends, then stay where only your friends are. Don't go out in the community, the city, the world and not expect others to see it too.  Wear something appropriate to Twitter's social nonstop party.

2.  Businesses (even politicians offices) should be "listening" online and responding with answers, solutions, all around helpful information or merely just to the let the person know they were "heard".   In this case, Brownback's staff failed miserably.  Sadly they acted like a teenager themselves and contacted Emma's principal, Dr. Krawitz to turn her in.  If it were me working Brownback's account, I would have looked at Emma Sullivan's Twitter profile @EmmaKate988 first, checked out the character of her tweets she historically makes (which are filled with tweets about Twilight and Justin Bieber, no surprises there) and saw she had 65 followers who are more than likely students too and not online at that time.  I also would have noted there was no meat to her tweet. She wasn't blasting a policy or pending bill or anything about Kansas. She was bored and made a ridiculous hashtag #heblowsalot  that no one else was using and it more than likely would not catch on. It has now though.  She did tweet a lie however, and that would have made me raise an eyebrow. Did she really sock it to Brownback verbally?  I would have replied back with something positive to turn the tone around, perhaps "We're glad you came to the Capital today.  How's the experience?"   We're not taking the bait but letting her know she was "heard" and more importantly, that we were "listening".  I would have done nothing more with it if she would not have responded.  Safe to say, she would NOT have responded.

3.  Tweet something positive or constructive and if you just can't, then don't tweet.   Truly. There's no need for nasty, cursing, condescending or hateful remarks.  Really.  Hate is a cancer and it can spread.  Sure those kinds of remarks are all covered in our First Amendment for Freedom of Speech, but it's primarily bad mojo.  Why do that to yourself?  There's a lot of entertaining snark on Twitter and some at the expense of celebrities. It's a fine line and those people who partake with hate, do it as a persona on a regular  basis.  As a general rule of thumb, keep it clean and remember your integrity and character develops with every tweet you create and ultimately post.

4.  When  you "listen" online, make sure legitimate inquiries know they were "heard".   I personally have tweeted @GovSamBrownback with questions regarding legislation for public schools in Kansas and have never had a response.  I figured the account was abandoned or automated (which I can't stand) with broadcast announcements that had no intention to see what the responses to those posts would be.  Imagine my surprise and disappointment to find that Brownback's office responded to Emma's absolutely ridiculous tweet.  So is this how I need to get heard?   Brownback's staff is teaching us "YES",  this is what they react to.   What a shame.  Think of the missed opportunities to build relationships and build rapport with constituents.  Better yet, building a fan base.

There are more lessons and reminders, but these resonated the most with me.  The need to help tweens and teens manage their online reputations is imperative.  We can't just continue to throw them out there in cybersphere and not set expectations or best practices.  Parents and mentors need to set guidelines and monitor online activity as often as possible and let the child know this is what will happen.  Be helpful.  The skill to communicate effectively online is the opportunity we have as a parent.

at the time of this post, Emma Sullivan's Twitter account @EmmaKate988 is no longer in service. Last report of followers was over 16,000.   Governor Brownback's page has just over 3,300.

What social media lessons do you hope were learned during this Twitter train wreck?