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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Will they ever learn? A few simple social media tips could have helped Kansas Governor Sam Brownback avert a Twitter-imposed reputation crisis, a seemingly growing trend among public figures. When high school student, Emma Sullivan visited the state capitol, she tweeted “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.” Gov. Brownback’s communications team led by Director Sherriene Jones-Sontag, found the tweet in a routine social media monitoring keyword search under his name. They proceeded to contact Sullivan’s high school principal who demanded Sullivan deliver a written apology to Gov. Brownback resulting in a hailstorm of ridicule from the Twitterverse and beyond.


Some industries have been hesitant to join the world of social media because of confidentiality or regulatory concerns. Law, pharma and government to name a few abide by legal, security, marketing and/or communications restrictions; a single word could cost them clients, affect policy, or result in millions of dollars in fines. Gov. Brownback’s communication team was correctly monitoring social media, but the way they responded to one negative Tweet demonstrated their failure to consider what we at CommCore consider to be key Twitter tips:


  • Twitter is a platform where you cultivate conversations. Bad or good, you should be prepared to read positive and negative opinions and respond (or ignore) accordingly.
  • Consider your online reputation. Acting defensively reflects poorly on your ability to manage issues.
  • Take the opportunity to turn a foe into a fan. You can reach out privately through a direct message (DM) and develop a conversation.
  • When faced with a negative tweet, consider the source before reacting. Emma Sullivan is an 18 year old high school student whose prior sporadic tweets were filled with excitement about the Twilight series and Justin Bieber.

In the end, it was not Sullivan who issued an apology, it was Gov. Brownback. He issued a statement on Monday saying, "My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms.” Jones-Sontag told the Kansas City-Star that it’s “important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the internet." Looks like that was more of a lesson to Gov. Brownback and his communications team than it was for high school students. Let us know other helpful Twitter tips you would like to add.

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