Spotlight On: Avoiding Social Media Gaffes

By Kyle Brown · September 18, 2015

So far, this election has been rife with candidates dropping out of the race due to social media gaffes. We’ve already written about this here, but the topic was a big hit at last night’s pre-debate panel with Ian Capstick and Kate Harrison, so it’s worth diving into a bit further. Even just two days ago another Liberal candidate was pulled for comments made on social media.

Obviously, the most important piece of advice regarding social media is that you should never tweet/post/Instagram/Vine anything that will come back to bite you. For a long time, users of platforms like Facebook and Twitter demonstrated naivete about just how public those platforms were. Up until a few years ago, privacy on social media was an afterthought.

The reality is, of course, that when you take to social media, you must consider it on the same level as conducting an interview on a national broadcaster. Your audience is endless and your comments can be seen by anyone. We tell organizations we work with to treat their social media managers the same way they would their media relations officer — social and traditional media present the same opportunities and risks for your organization and the people who work for it. Even if you have your profile settings configured to limit content to a close circle, there’s nothing preventing someone from screencapping that and posting it for the world to see.

More reactively, it is important to spend some time going through your past tweets and posts to conduct a “scrub” — a complete review of everything you’ve sent out, deleting anything that may create issues. While this won’t erase anything that’s already been screencapped, it eliminates the chance for people to screencap down the road (for example, when you choose to run for office.)

Last, a final wise decision, particularly if you’ve had a long history of posting social media content, it may be worth it to simply set your old account as private, screen your followers, and go ahead and set-up a fresh public account. That way, as you build up a following, it’s easier to establish your message to be whatever you want it to be going forward.


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