Two tips for safer tweeting

Last week during the U.S. presidential debate, KitchenAid got into hot water when one of its staff tweeted a rude, snarky comment from the corporate account, rather than using a personal one. You can read more about it from Gini Dietrich.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened and it won’t be the last.

  • So, if you manage professional and personal Twitter accounts and you feel you have to make a mean, sick, tasteless, angry, off-colour, blue or otherwise offensive remark/joke – and you’re not a comedian or known as a snarky person online – here are two tips to think about before you press send:

1. Test your material on a few people you trust beforehand, and consider whether or not you’re being hurtful and if this is something you really must say. In other words, use your judgement and resist the urge to post immediately.

2. And, if you do decide to post the remark – check, double check and triple check you’re using the right account. And ask yourself one last time if  putting it out to the public fits with your online personality or or if you’re just showing off a little. Then tweet away (or not).

These mini-conflagrations always have two things in common:

  • The user is managing multiple Twitter accounts
  • The tweet is always in questionable taste and could harm a brand’s reputation

It’s all a part of learning how to navigate in the new personal/professional social landscape, a place when our various worlds consistently collide.

We talk more about this on Inside PR 3.12.  Have a listen and let me  know what you think.

About Martin Waxman

Martin Waxman is a digital, social media and communications strategist, content marketer, social media trainer and instructor and co-founder of three PR agencies. He blogs at myPALETTE and hosts the Inside PR podcast.


I know I'm not the norm in this, but I've always treated my personal and business accounts the same. We're taught there are two things you shouldn't discuss in public: Religion and politics. For that very reason, I don't discuss those things on the social networks. We work with lots of clients who have different beliefs than we do. Heck, our team doesn't even have the same beliefs. So, to tweet something like the F word or something offensive about the President's grandmother would never happen. Sure, we all make mistakes, but it's better to be safe and not tweet it at all.

Ken Knitter
Ken Knitter

Given how important brand reputation is, I would flesh your tips out further.  First, even if a tweet is of acceptable taste, if it is sufficiently off-topic from a brand's normal range of topics, it will be seen as a major quality escape.  So tip 1 should simply refer to tip 2--make sure you are using the right account.


Now that sounds simpler than it sometimes is.  For instance, I noticed Hootsuite on the Blackberry has behaviours that can make it quite easy to mistakenly post to the wrong account.  If you log out of your primary BB Hootsuite account (e.g., your corporate twitter account) and then log into personal Hootsuite account you will be okay to tweet for a while.  However, if the BB times out and the screen locks, I 've noticed that Hootsuite reverts back to the primary account (i.e., the corporate twitter) account.  So it would be exceedingly easy for someone to mistakenly tweet to the wrong account.


The best way to address this would be to either keep your hardware separate (for instance, I carry a personal iPhone and a corporate Blackberry), or failing that keep your apps separate (e.g., use Hootsuite app for corporate communications, and Tweetdeck for personal communications).



martinwaxman moderator

 @ginidietrich Thanks Gini. I think we're on the same page again (probably because we're reading from the same book).


I treat my personal and professional accounts as if they're interchangeable - with similar parameters as you. Actually, it's my cocktail party rules - there are some things I just don't feel comfortable talking about unless I know people really well.


I realize it's tough for younger people who are establishing themselves and navigating the landscape. My personal philosophy is I'm transparent about who I am and there's a borderblur (to borrow a phrase) between work and leisure. Which means I post a groaner of a joke - friends and business associates alike see it. 

martinwaxman moderator

 @Ken Knitter Thanks for your perspective, Ken. I didn't realize that the accounts could blend so easily. Appreciate your flagging and sharing your tips.