Lessons Learned from a Twitter Meltdown

Earlier today I was involved in a Twitter fight which was captured in a few places, including here (mediastyle.ca) and here (Torontoist) and here (Valleywag.  My version of the events is described in the post – Unhappy Customers Complain.  The apology from the National Post is here.

I think I’ve said everything I can on either Twitter or the mediastyle.ca post on what he said/she said so I will let the who was right and wrong discussion take place over there (and frankly, it’s all so like, 2 hours ago).  What it did get me thinking about is what lessons we can learn from all of this.

Here are a few:

  • Be nice because power is shifting – Social media advocates have been saying this for ages but it’s still news for some folks.  Newspaper reporters can no longer afford to treat the marketing and PR folks in their ecosystem badly any more than the marketing and PR folks can treat them badly in return.  We all have to figure out a way to play nice.
  • Don’t forget there are people behind that text – David was clearly having a bad day but so what?  He’s about to change jobs and move to a different country and he’s got deadlines and stress.  Does that give him the right to be a jerk? Of course not!  He crossed a line and he can’t expect me to not talk about that.  Should he lose his job or even have this be a subject of conversation a week from now?  No way!  I too have been known to drop the f-bomb in mixed company (ok, maybe not so publicly, over and over again, but still).  We all lose our cool sometimes and the next time I lose mine I certainly hope everyone remembers that I’m human and entitled to have a bad day once and a while.
  • Apologize and move on already – Sure this stuff comes up and spreads around quickly, but an apology would have too.  David could have just posted a Tweet to say – “oops, sorry, one too many cocktails over lunch” (ok, maybe not exactly that but you get the idea) and we would have all gone back to talking about our macbooks.
  • Being deeply involved in Social Media has bizarre risks you never dreamed of but it’s OK! – Get in a fight on Twitter and the next thing you know you’re “dumb”, “unprofessional”, a “Flack” and (gasp!) “a PR person” (Sheesh!  Call me what you want but I don’t do PR man!), along with literally a kazillion direct messages, emails and Twitter replies telling me I’m the calmest person ever.  Does any of it matter?  Nah, not really.  I don’t do PR, I’m not all that calm and a week from now we will be talking about Steve Jobs or whatever.  Does anyone remember the @astrospace meltdown? I didn’t think so.

OK, that’s it, the dead horse has been beaten.  Move along folks, nothing to see here.

19 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from a Twitter Meltdown”

  1. Good words of advice, but the rules are still the same: If you wouldn’t want to read about it in a Newspaper headline, don’t write it on Twitter. (or something like that). 🙂

  2. Aside from the breach of professional standards and etiquette, this incident shows what happens when a new media technology like Twitter starts entering the mainstream.
    People start using it without understanding or realising the consequences of this mode of communication. There have been several high profile gaffes on Twitter, including the head of the BBC multimedia newsroom announcing senior editorial appointments by mistake: http://is.gd/iAC1

  3. April,
    I saw this go down first hand. At first I was shocked how you were berated and wondered what the fall out was going to be. As a customer sat guy who runs a MM dollar company in Toronto and fellow twitterer I was hoping (secretly praying) you would handle yourself the way you did. I seriously think you need to be commended for your professionalism and knowing when to back off – especially in a public forum. With how fast word spreads across social media wires (case in point my recent account with United Airlines which resulted in a viral upheaval and a call from united http://bit.ly/Ne3Q)you played the game above and beyond what is required in today’s age.
    Not many people thank each other these days, however I want to say thanks and good job for showing how professionalism in the public eye should be handled.
    Jason Tryfon
    twitter.com/jasontryfon
    http://www.uhaveavoice.com

  4. Well said. At the end of the day we all need to get along in public and focus on relationship building and positive behaviours. Even if we’re using our own name on twitter on our own time, we ambassadors of everything we’re connected to – be it our employer, profession, independent consultancy, family, blog etc.
    As for cocktails at lunch, I know you want to move on but I think David should buy you one. 😉

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  11. tell me if you feel this is out of line. what product or company were you marketing that did not need the free attention and publicity available from an article in the national post?
    agreed, his people skills are unacceptable. and, i don’t know very much about what led to this or what product or company you are representing, but, if you are representing them, don’t they deserve your attention on a timely basis. forget the reporter’s needs. what about your client?
    from the outside, while you handled the twitter attack superbly, i’m not so sure you handled the earlier interaction with the same professional demeanor.
    if i paid you to represent my product or company and you ignored reporters without it being on my direct order, i wouldn’t be paying you very long.

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  13. Hi Randy,
    I totally understand your comment. It is for exactly that reason that this reporter had been getting away with that sort of poor behavior.
    The fact is that I wasn’t representing a product/service. That isn’t what I do at all. The fact that I am in marketing is actually coincidental to the story.
    Had I been representing another company I would have probably done exactly what other have done in the past and not complained at all or if I felt very strongly, complained to his management directly.
    (Also saw your comment wondering why this one wasn’t posted yet. Sorry, but it’s taking me a while to slog through the email and discussion on this one is taking place mainly on Twitter)
    April

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