Twitter - Can you afford to not be part of the conversation

We've all heard about the benefits of getting your business represented on Twitter and connecting to your network of customers but have you considered what the consequences of ignoring this social network might be? Potentially there could be a P.R. storm brewing around your company reputation while you are oblivious to it. We had a bit of bother here this week, when one of our clients, became the victim of some spurious tweeting as they had been erroneously identified as a company that has been making unsolicited calls about pursuing mis-sold PPI policies. I think we all know about these calls, texts & emails that are unwanted and intrusive. The details of this episode are of no more importance so we will spare names, etc. But it raised a very serious issue about reputation management if you have a Twitter/social media presence, as our client does or if you do not, which we feel is worthy of a few mentions here.

Shockingly, given that the company had been mis-identified, they became the victim of some brief but quite spiteful tweeting, which had it gone unnoticed, could have caused a nasty bump in their reputation. By its nature Twitter is at its best when breaking news and the story spreads fast and wide. As it was both we and they got on top of it and wrote a suitably worded email to the person that posted it, pointing out the error and demanding an apology. Which for the record was willingly given, the tweet deleted and an apology posted.

However it raises point number one. Twitter is a written medium in the public domain and as such is bound by all the same libel laws and protections as anything else similar, like a Facebook post, a comment on Linkedin or an email (where there is now strong legal precedent). It is therefore incumbent upon anybody posting anything that they remember this fact and think twice before submitting anything controversial.

On the flip side I think our client handled their own situation perfectly and responded straight away, made direct contact, politely pointed out the error and demanded the withdrawal which is point 2. In an environment like Twitter, necessary responses really must be thought through but as far as possible, immediate, time can quickly become an enemy.

What has really got me thinking though, is point 3. What had happened had our client not had a Twitter account and were blissfully unaware that a reputation fire was burning around them. The simple truth of social networks is that in reality there is no opt in or opt out, the only difference is if you are not active then you have zero control over the conversation, but if you are then you have the opportunity to be proactive and shape what is being said.

The statistics of what is posted on Twitter are staggering; 250 million tweets per day, over 100 million active Twitter users and if like me you are part of that community then you will see first hand how breaking news spreads instantaneously across it. Perhaps the most famous example being the posting of the amateur film when the plane came down in the Hudson River, or the death of Amy Winehouse beating the BBC to spread the sad news.

This subject is particularly relevant at the moment due to the news this week regarding the jailing of a student who made racially offensive comments about footballer Fabrice Muamba on Twitter. This is another example of how comments made online can be treated every bit as seriously and are governed by the same laws of libel as comments made in the press or elsewhere.

So I am pleased that our client has escaped the clutches of a bad press day this week but I am now just a wee bit more worried, nay paranoid about whatever else may have been missed. My advice, join the conversation and of course, make sure you use an expert to help you. As you know the Lamb door is always open for a cup of tea and a chat...