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Weiner shows it’s easy to screw up in social media

After my post yesterday on the social media-induced plight of Congressman Anthony Weiner, I was interviewed by Ned Potter of ABC News, who asked me whether it is easier to make a mistake in social media than it is in other venues, and whether that was just such a human failing that has contributed to the story of Weiner’s social media disaster. And, no matter how much of an advocate you are of social media, the undeniable truth is that it is most definitely easier to make such a faux pax in social media than in other ways. There are several reasons why that’s true.

Anthony Weiner

Image via Wikipedia

See how many of these reasons might affect you someday, and ask yourself whether you should be more careful using social media than you are:

  • You’re less familiar with social media. We’ve all heard (and perhaps experienced) the horror stories of sending e-mail to the wrong people, or copying everyone when we meant to answer one person. (Remember the story of the hapless CEO of Spirit Airlines who hit “reply all”?) But because most of us are far more familiar and comfortable with e-mail than with social media, sheer practice has made it less likely that we’ll make that error than that we’ll mis-route something in the less familiar social media venues. What’s more, we tend to use the same e-mail software every day, but we shift from social media site to site, each one having different rules about how they work, making mistakes more likely.
  • You can’t figure out what is public and what is private. It turns out that fumbling the direct message wasn’t Congressman Weiner’s only social media error. Weiner also posted his pictures in public (since deleted from yfrog), even though it wouldn’t have been that easy to find them. Just because you send a private Twitter direct message doesn’t mean everything you link to in that message is private.
  • You’re doing it in a hurry. More and more, we use social media on the go, and we’re careless. We’re multitasking, and multitasking leads to errors. If you’re trying to finish that tweet as your client walks into your office, you might not check it very carefully before you press send.
  • Your accounts have different audiences. You probably know that your Facebook friends are different people than your Twitter followers, but even different Twitter handles have different sets of followers. What that means is that if you tweet from more than one account, you might inadvertently tweet from a different one than you intended. It’s common for companies to have a brand account that several people tweet from–you know those individuals have their own accounts too, and could easily mix them up.
  • Twitter might be even harder than most venues. Because Twitter allows text commands, a simple finger fumble can make the difference. Typing “@PatLee” vs. “d PatLee” is the difference between a public and private message to Pat. What’s more, some people use text messages to update Twitter–if their carrier splits the text message into two parts, the second part will be posted publicly to Twitter, even if the first part started with a “d” for direct message.

If you have been running a little too fast as you use social media, perhaps Congressman Weiner’s story is a reason to take a little more care. Your secrets are likely different from Weiner’s, but they will cause you trouble if they are in the wrong hands.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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