A rogue tweet last week inspired several apologies from a local municipality and serves as a reminder to social media managers to tread carefully.
At 7:23 a.m. ET on Jan. 8, the city of Vaughan, which is just north of Toronto, greeted its Twitter followers with this missive after a major snowfall in the area:
“Everyone on my street has double gararges...who are these f*cknuts who don't put their car in the garage when we get 2 feet of snow? #dumb”
Looks like someone forgot which Twitter handle he or she was tweeting from. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before it set off a brief social media firestorm for Vaughan.
As a resident of the region, I was disheartened by the tweet, as were a number of other people who noticed the foul-mouthed message.
Those who handle multiple social media accounts, often do so at their own peril. Some have mistakenly tweeted from a private account, thinking it’s a professional outlet. For instance, an employee at New Media Strategies infamously tweeted about the people in Detroit and their inability to drive—from Chrysler’s official Twitter feed. The tweet said:
“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f*cking drive.”
The employee who sent the tweet was fired, as was News Media Strategies. Chrysler dropped the firm as its social media agency
of record after the incident.
In the case of the Vaughan tweet, the language used isn’t befitting anyone—personally or professionally.
“This speaks to more than the language used but also of the need to separate personal and private accounts,” said Eden Spodek, digital strategist and instructor at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. “Just because anyone can be a publisher today doesn’t mean they have the right experience or there are sufficient processes in place for them to manage social media accounts on behalf of organizations.
To its credit, the city of Vaughn acted fast, issuing several apologies on Twitter as well as this longer statement:
The City of Vaughan apologies (sic) for the inappropriate tweet that came earlier today from its corporate Twitter account.
The City has temporarily suspended the account and is investigating the cause of this tweet, including the possibility of the account being hacked by an unauthorized user.
More information on the cause of this matter will be released as it becomes known.
The city of Vaughan’s Director of Corporate Communications Gary Williams said the city wanted to shut down the account first as part of the investigation.
“If our account is hacked we don't want to run the risk of any other inappropriate tweets going out,” the official said.
There is one problem with disabling a Twitter account amid a social media firestorm, said Jodi Echakowitz, a Vaughan resident and president at Echo Communications
“By deleting their Twitter account how do they expect to respond without their main social channel?” Echakowitz pointed out.
However, Vaughan acted fast—it’s Twitter account was up and running the same day the rogue tweet went out. The city sent this tweet before resuming its normal social media schedule:
Good thing it implemented new procedures, because the rogue tweet on Jan. 8 wasn’t the first time the city drew flak for its social media activity. Just one day
before the F-bomb appeared in a tweet, someone using the Vaughan account sent this message
on Twitter in the lead-up to the snowstorm:
That tweet was also deleted.