By now the lesson should be clear. Don’t send an email, a tweet, a text or a voice message with content that could harm you if it were to be broadcasted across the world. This is especially true if you’re a public figure or a major brand. Case in point was a recent episode with the Kansas City Chiefs. When a disgruntled fan tweeted some negative thoughts about the Chiefs, he received a direct message from the team’s Twitter account that included the statement, “your choice to be a fan.” The unhappy fan then tweeted the direct message and all of a sudden a major brouhaha had erupted. Eventually there would be Twitter-blocking and side-picking with likes and dislikes across social media and into mainstream media. All of this would lead to an apology from the Chiefs Twitter account.
Whether the fan was being unfair, or the Chiefs were being thin-skinned doesn’t matter in the end. And ultimately, it may or may not have been a PR loss for the Chiefs – sometimes any publicity is good publicity. The lesson here is that it is risky for any brand’s reputation when the digital managers engage fans on social media, and especially when such engagement is negative. While they might intend to project an image of strength, negative reactions can appear thin-skinned and petty. All of this is probably fine on a personal social media account where honesty isn’t necessarily a bad policy. However, when using the brand’s social media account, it’s probably best to stick to the script and issue fluffy PR statements even if it hurts your heart to do so. To paraphrase others, think of social media statements as press releases. Ultimately the idea is to vent privately (but not to strangers), and send only positive tweets.