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Kids and keyboards don’t mix for social media managers

Any parent knows that kids are extremely adept at taking advantage of opportune moments to “play” on mom or dad’s phone. But if you manage your company’s social media accounts, this is actually a risk that you should consider. Case in point: the intriguing mystery of the US Strategic Command Twitter account last week.

So first a bit of background: The US Strategic Command is the government agency responsible for things like nuclear operations and missile defense. And yes, they have an official Twitter account, @US_Stratcom. Generally speaking, this account tweets about positive military accomplishments, people in the military, advancements in military technology, etc. But on Sunday, March 28, this official government account tweeted a line of complete gibberish: “;l;;gmlxzssaw.”

US STRAT tweet.png

The tweet confused and concerned the masses, who were quick to comment and share the post – questioning whether the account had been hacked, whether there was some sort of issue with the department or whether someone had just tweeted the country’s nuclear codes. Predictably, the tweet was quickly deleted and the department then asked followers to disregard it. But no explanation was given, adding to the mystery and the speculation.

Enterprising journalist Mikael Thalen from the Daily Dot wanted to get to the bottom of it, so he issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and received the explanation.

According to this writeup in ZDNet, “the agency told Thalen that the US Strategic Command’s Twitter manager, while working from home, left his post for a moment and the account was, unfortunately, open. What happened next would make any parent currently working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic groan: his “very young” child “took advantage of the situation and started playing with the keys, and unfortunately, and unknowingly, posted the tweet.” 

I know every parent who has been working from home for a year while trying to balance childcare, work duties and life understands. Heck, even those of us without kids understand. And while this incident is so, so, so relatable in these work-from-home COVID Times, it also serves as a good cautionary tale. Here are a couple of good common-sense tactics to try if your current situation might lend itself to a similar incident:

  1. Don’t walk away from your computer or device and leave it unlocked. Ever. Make sure you lock the screen or close the laptop cover every time you walk away. Even if you’re just running to the bathroom or to grab another cup of coffee, that’s enough time for your little one to do some damage.
  2. If your child knows the code to unlock your phone or the password to unlock your computer, you may want to rethink that. It might be time to change your passcode and lock your child out. I know, that sounds really dramatic and mean. But would you really rather explain to your boss – or worse yet, the media – why you accidentally tweeted “;l;;gmlxzssaw” or something worse from the company account?
  3. Most computers allow you to create different user profiles for different members of your household, each with its own login credentials. If you are sharing a device, consider creating separate user profiles and coaching your child that they need to use their own profile and never, ever log into yours. This way you can maintain a separate password that is not shared with your family.
  4. If locking your child out of your device is just not realistic, consider approaching your supervisor and asking if the company will buy you a company-owned device for managing social media accounts. That way you can be certain that work and home are completely separate, and you all but eliminate the potential for such an incident occurring. This is also very helpful because you can separate your personal social media notifications from the work ones.
  5. You could choose to be super vigilant and commit to logging out of your company’s account any time you are not specifically working in it. But that takes a fair amount of commitment, and it also means you won’t get pop-up notifications on your device or browser when you are not logged in. So, you’d have to make sure all your notification settings are for email alerts, and those could overwhelm your inbox.

So, if you work from home currently and your little ones are also at home with you, please, for the sake of avoiding a social media gaffe, make sure you take proper precautions to protect your devices when they are unattended. Exercise diligence because it only takes a second.

And let’s all take a moment to celebrate the fact that ““;l;;gmlxzssaw” is not any kind of nuclear code.

Sue Serna

Sue Serna is a Consultants Collective member consultant and the founder and CEO of Serna Social, a social media consulting agency focused on social media governance, risk, security and strategy. Sue is one of the nation’s top experts on social media safety and spent nearly nine years leading the global social media program for Cargill, one of the largest private companies in the United States. Sue pioneered many industry best practices that the world’s largest companies use to keep their social media footprints safe. While in that role, Sue managed Cargill’s more than 50 partner relationships with social media agencies around the world. In addition, Sue is an accomplished social media trainer and an established communicator with a passion for creating compelling content. In 2022, she was named to the Advisory Committee of the National Institute for Social Media.

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