Since late Tuesday evening, everybody’s been talking about President Donald J. Trump’s garbled late-night tweet referencing “covfefe.” It’s been the perfect fodder for internet pranksters and late-night talk show hosts, but it also serves as a good reminder that what we post online lives forever. Here’s a few of my recommendations on how to proceed when you find yourself having to respond to a bad tweet:
1. Leave the tweet up, unless it’s really egregious.
If you’ve tweeted for a long enough period, chances are you’ve accidentally sent out a tweet at some point during that time. There is really no sense in deleting it, because you’ll find that even seconds after you’ve hit send, someone has already seen it (and in cases like this one, they’ve also taken a screenshot). It’s better to just send out another tweet explaining the previous one, unless it’s something really egregious that you need to take down. It will eventually get pushed down your feed, and like most things, it will eventually be out of sight, out of mind.
2. Apologize if you need to, and do it quickly.
If an apology is warranted, and often times it is, make one in your very next tweet. But please do make sure that the apology is authentic and sincere, to prevent any future backlash. More on that here.
3. Remember that every tweet is “on the record.”
As a spokesperson for a local university, I was surprised, at first, to find my tweets make it into local news reports. (A short video I tweeted out on my phone a few weeks ago even made it onto SacBee.com!) Whether you are a public official or not, it’s a good reminder to be careful with what you share on social media. We’ve all heard the stories of people who have gotten fired over one bad social media post (case in point). This is the world we live in now, so we should always be mindful of who may be reading our posts.
4. Don’t mess with the comments.
Even if the replies to your tweet are bad, just let them run. It’s far worse to delete bad tweets — people do notice. If you feel compelled to respond publicly, do so with a personal response and not an auto response. The auto response could make the tweeter even more upset, and lead to the fallout lasting even longer.
5. DM responses if you can.
If you and the other person follow each other, then you may have the opportunity to send them a private DM or Direct Message. Don’t let your guard down though on a DM thread, just because it’s a private message. People can, and will, screenshot and share those too! And for the love of pete, don’t use a tweet bot to respond to them either. Make sure it is a personal interaction with the other person. It will be more well received.
Any tips that I missed for managing the fallout of a bad tweet? Please let me know!
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