This article first appeared on PR Daily in July, 2015. Dear brand manager on Twitter,
I get it. You were trying to be clever. You were trying to be relevant, and perhaps provide something unique that no one else has. It can be really hard getting attention amongst millions and billions of tweets.
You hit the tweet button thinking, “This will be it. Our followers will love this. They’ll love it so much that they’ll retweet it, and then we’ll go viral. Mashable, TechCrunch, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed will talk about it. Oh, it will be great.”
But then it’s not. People didn’t get your joke. They didn’t think it was funny and thought your tweet was out of line. They didn’t get the sentiment, and now they’re replying. They are retweeting, but for the wrong reasons. Your knee-jerk reaction is, “Let’s delete it.”
Like I said, I get it. You made a mistake. You don’t want this misunderstood or mistaken tweet to be part of your “official” Twitter record. Hit that trash can button and all will be forgotten. Let’s pretend like it never happened.
But it did happen, and it’s not forgotten—at least not for the time being. People are smart. They know you might delete it. They know you might regret it, so they strike the fatal blow. They take a screenshot of it. It lives.
The latest notable example was from @england (which isn’t even the country, but the country’s football teams—both men’s and women’s). They meant well. They sent out a tweet congratulating their women’s World Cup team as heroes. Twitter didn’t quite take it that way, so they deleted the tweet. But it lives.
This is hardly the worst or most offensive tweet ever sent. But it did call on many to call it sexist. Perhaps you don’t think its offensive, but others did, and @england decided to delete it. Yet, it lives.
If you go look at @england’s feed, there’s so much great content—photos, videos and behind-the-scenes perspectives for fans. In my opinion, it’s what brands should be providing followers on Twitter. But instead, they are being noticed for something else.
I’m all for deleting tweets under other circumstances. You have a typo and you want to fix it, or you accidentally tweet a bad link and need to correct it. There’s no edit button on Twitter, so this seems like an appropriate course of action.
But deleting a Tweet because others have a problem with it causes even more problems. The news doesn’t become the tweet; the news becomes the deletion of the tweet. The brand manager for @england is hardly the first or the last to do this. There’s a laundry list of brand managers who have made a mistake on Twitter, deleted the tweet and then brought even more negative attention because of the action. Comparatively speaking, this is hardly a crisis to other challenges that businesses face.
If you make a mistake, own up, clarify, provide context or apologize. Anything is better than deleting a tweet, because guess what?
Someone who wasn’t even following you, but heard about you deleting a tweet and wanted to see what a disaster it was.