If you’re in tune with Twitter, you may have heard unsettling rumors in recent days that the vast, tweeting nest is in danger of disappearing entirely. Panic set in for many, as the hashtag #SaveTwitter went from a tiny murmur to a deafening CHIRP of distress.
No need to head for the bunkers and break out the Tang and freeze-dried meals just yet – it’s not happening. The Twitter you know and love is firmly planted among the living, with no signs of impending demise. Those rumors that spread like wildfire were based on nothing more than a single false claim amplified by the power of social media. How appropriate!
A young man with the handle “BradTheLadLong,” who bills himself as the “Most Controversial Youtuber of 2015,” initiated the wave of terror by announcing that he had complained of online abuse by Twitter users. In response, he claimed, company leadership had recognized their only ethical course of action and agreed to shut down the whole operation in 2017. It isn’t true.
After you’ve regained your equilibrium and resumed normal respiration, is there anything to learn from this episode? Is it just another pointless kerfuffle or is there a meaningful takeaway? I believe there are two points worth remembering:
- Social media, and Twitter in particular, moves fast. Faster than a bullet train with a particular destination and a verified departure. Fast like the way a secret spreads through a second grade classroom, and with much the same level of accuracy. Twitter is the ultimate example of crowd sourced information, which makes it an invaluable asset for keeping up with breaking news but also a monstrous liability in terms of validation. Before you comment on or share a particular tidbit, whether astonishing or mundane, it is critical to verify the data. Otherwise, you run the risk of jumping on someone else’s tidal wave of nonsense, which doesn’t help your professional reputation one bit. You can’t just confirm it with others saying the same thing on Twitter – they may have hit the same vein of malarkey. Even respected news media have fallen victim to baseless gossip on social media, in their haste to be one of the first to announce breaking news. You may not be able to access primary sources, but come as close to them as you can in order to be pretty sure you’re passing on solid information.
- Social media is incredibly powerful. That tiny snowball of garbage BradTheLadLong tossed down the hill grew into an enormous avalanche that had serious people talking about something completely bogus as if it were a reality. While disseminating false information isn’t your goal, the phenomenon serves as a dramatic illustration of the power social media grants all of us to launch a message much, much farther than we could hope to using more traditional methods. Now let’s imagine if that conversation about Twitter facing imminent death had instead been about how your accounting saved a client from impending tax doom!
Social media is so powerful that you’ve simply must invest the resources to utilize it, but do so well and carefully. Find someone who understands and loves the medium to do this for your firm, whether it’s a talented staffer, a dedicated in-house marketing professional or an outsourced marketing team. Whoever you choose, be sure that you’re verifying information thoroughly and crafting your message strategically, because with social media, it has the potential to grow and spread like nothing you’ve seen before.