Conflict on Twitter

We all want to create something so share-worthy that Mashable or BuzzFeed fight over it. We all want our brands to receive attention. But, what if that attention was for something negative? In a single second (which can seem like years on the internet), word spreads like wildfire. So, is it really worth getting into an argument on a public forum like Twitter? At the end of the day, no one really wins, and nothing gets resolved. It’s inevitable that conflict will arise, but when it spills onto Twitter, it takes on a life of its own. We’ve all read about (or witnessed) infamous Twitter spats between rival sports teams or two British boy bands. However, when companies and brands take their grievances to the internet, the results are magnified. Let’s look at Adam Orth as an example. The former Microsoft Studios creative director left his post after facing criticism for his seemingly abrasive tweets. Microsoft apologized for the former employee’s tweets, stating that his views did not reflect the approach the company takes to their products and customers.

Orth TweetsOrth was tweeting from his personal handle, but he was still viewed as an extension of the company. While he was not a spokesperson for Microsoft, he was still affiliated with the company, and his words were a poor reflection on the brand.

In the case of Brendan O’Connor, a journalist and former employee of the Milk Truck food truck in New York City, a question of right and wrong arises.

OConnorB_ tweet USE

  After seeing this tweet, an upset representative from Glass, Lewis and Co. reached out to Milk Truck. O'Connor was promptly fired. Certainly, it would have been a non-issue if the company had tipped O’Connor for the service of a big order, but O’Connor took to Twitter to call out the perceived offender in a mention. It’s one thing to post a general criticism of non-tippers, but he chose to be specific and essentially humiliate the company. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Should he have refrained from sending out that tweet, let alone directly mentioning the company? Yes. Was firing him over the top? Maybe. Does anyone win in this situation? No.
Both parties made mistakes, but neither resolved the spat in an appropriate manner. There are many ways to use Twitter, whether it's to share your life experiences real-time, serve as the voice of your company or promote your personal brand. However, there are some ground rules that should always apply:  
  • Get personal, but not too personal. You want to be authentic and relatable.
  • Always be appropriate and professional. As with anything you put on the Internet, your tweets last forever.
  • If you make a mistake, own up to it and move on.
  • Never underestimate the power of the Internet (and the chance something could go viral).
  Step back and breathe. Most of the time, little jabs don’t warrant a response, especially if it does not equate to libel. You shouldn’t have to feel like you need to “defend your honor” over 140 characters. The fighting words one puts out over the Internet are permanent. You can delete your tweets, but you can’t hide.  

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