It's a measure of a person and an organisation when they are happy to so freely flag up mistakes. Most would run a mile from doing so but being brave, and human, will pay off in the longer run, especially on social media.
Of all the experiences we have when using Twitter for our work, blunders, cock-ups and errors of every kind are the stories people seem to want to hear.
Communications, PR and social media people lap them up – maybe it’s because it’s a relief to hear that we’re not alone in making mistakes.
Social media is young and rapidly changing, to some extent we’re all making it up as we go along.
However, just as we chart new territory, I have come across so many examples of mistakes we’re all prone to.
I believe these mistakes connect us social media people – it’s a club and if you have done more than three of these you have entered into my imaginary, not-very cool socmed-pro gang. Welcome!
1. 1. Tweeting from the wrong account
Have you felt the hot flush of shame and panic when you realised that tweet you just sent wasn’t from your corporate account? It requires swift action and is usually the time that your internet connection goes wobbly and your shaky fingers cannot hit the buttons needed to resolve the situation.
Luckily, I don’t tweet anything I wouldn’t be happy to shout out in a crowd so nothing I’ve tweeted from the wrong account has been too bad.
2. 2. Tweeting the wrong link
Urls – they are long and easy to mess up. I often tell the story of when I accidentally deleted one character from the end of a link I tweeted. I was supposed to tweet a picture of the Princess Royal visiting a historic building in the county I work for.
Ouch. I just sent another tweet apologising and people were very kind about it:
3. Sending a tweet by mistake
Poor Ed Balls. Two years ago, he tweeted his own name. He was probably searching for mentions of himself on Twitter and entered his name into the ‘compose’ box and not the ‘search’ box.
Everyone has to get used to where the features are and what they do when they start out. But last week’s Ed Ball’s Day showed that our memory of the tweet (and thirst for silliness) is still alive.
4. 4. Getting excited by a mention from a paper.li
Paper.li pulls lots of stories from Twitter into a handy little newspaper. I generate one with news from the organisation I work from – I think it’s useful (and free) for people on Twitter who want to subscribe to it to see what we’re talking about. But it has a small audience.
And some people’s Paper.li will often just pull any old links from all sorts of followers then auto tweet saying something like “today’s news from @HelReynolds, @PlanetJedward and @BarackObama”.
There is no need to profusely thank people when they mention us in these paper.li autotweets:
A) - Because they didn’t know or choose you to included so it’s not a compliment
B) - Because I reckon the only time people click on the link to read the paper is when they have been mentioned as being in it
This one is a matter of opinion though, there must be some great uses of Paper.li and I’d love to hear them.
5. 5. Sending a public tweet instead of a direct message
This can be terrifying. Anyone who has ever sent something that was supposed to be private quickly learns the lesson: never use a public network for a private communication. If you’re slagging someone off – use a text. If you’re chatting someone up, arrange to meet them first. DMs are great for things like exchanging email addresses, telling someone you’re running late and all sorts of things but best to only ever DM things you wouldn’t be ashamed to say in public.
6. 6. Typos
One of my favourite websites is damnyouautocorrect.com – an archive of the times our phones have made us say things that make us blush. It’s not so funny when it happens to us at work and we realise we’ve tweeted say, ‘cock’ instead of ‘cook’.
Uh-oh. Mind you, Fort (who I met once in Abergavenny) probably created more awareness of the magazine than he would’ve without the typo.
7. 7. Not even trying
That’s the biggest cock-up. But all of us made this mistake at some point before we got where we are today.
So to all you mistake-making social media people out there, count yourselves lucky as your little mistakes are moving you forward and helping you learn and connect with people.
No mistake is worse than that made by the person who sends out a few bland, signed off tweets and makes no effort to get real conversation going.
Helen Reynolds is Digital & Social Media Manager at Monmouthshire County Council