5 tips for policing your Twitter profile

As many have discovered, old tweets can resurface to haunt your future. Follow these steps to make sure there are no embarrassing statements lurking in your online profile.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before—a public figure, brand executive or celebrity did something on social media that caused more harm than good.

We’ve seen careers ruined and storms of negative PR resulting from “dead” posts that resurface like zombies from the social media graveyard, feeding on the reputations of otherwise thriving individuals. In fact, 57 percent of Americans who use social media have posted or texted something they regretted afterward, according to research from YouGov Omnibus.

This has reared its ugly head yet again, with New York Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray and Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner emerging as the latest of several Major League Baseball players recently confronted with tweets from their past.

While this is nothing new, it’s interesting to see the speed at which these tweets are now dug up. For example, Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb recently fell one out short of a historic no-hitter. But, when he returned to the dugout, his night took a turn for the worse, as racist, homophobic and sexist tweets he sent as a teenager surfaced just minutes after the game. Then, on Monday morning just a day later, Turner found himself caught in the same scandal.

What exactly can PR pros learn from all of this?

Twitter remains a great source to stay up-to-date with trending news stories. It gives you a place to engage with followers if used correctly. However if used incorrectly, it can be a dangerous place that will haunt you for many years after you’re finished using it.

While you may not be a professional baseball player, anyone using the platform can quickly end up regretting a post later in life. Our high-tech PR firm frequently offers guidance to our clients about smart social media usage. So here are a few tips and insights for cleaning up your social media history—and avoiding controversy.

1. Tweets are forever. As with all other posts on the internet, tweets last forever, unless you delete them. Even then, a simple screenshot takes it out of your control. Before you post, imagine if someone found this tweet 10 years from now. Will it age well?

2. If you question whether you should post it, don’t post it. If you have any doubt in your mind, don’t tweet it. The old adage, “Better safe than sorry,” applies here.

3. You’re always representing your employer. Even if you use a disclaimer such as “my tweets are my own” in your bio, it doesn’t shield you from possible consequences from your employer. Check with your bosses to see if there is an existing social media guidelines document, and adhere to rules currently in place.

4. Download your tweet history and delete anything you don’t want to resurface. Twitter gives users the option to download and view a complete history of their data on the platform, including viewing a history of all tweets posted. It’s a good idea to download and review this—and remove what you wouldn’t want in the public eye.

5. Anything you post on the platform can—and will—be used against you. Especially if you are a high-profile individual, such as a CEO of a company, people will intentionally seek out these old tweets. Plus, it’s not that hard to do. Twitter’s advanced search feature gives users a surprisingly easy way for anyone to comb through decade-old tweets and resurface them at the click of a button.

Mike Atkinson is an Account Manager and Social Media Strategist for W2 Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on the W2 Communications blog.

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