Twitter: Social Media’s Gateway Drug

I’m doing the second in a series of adult education workshops through a grant with Rochester Community and Technical College today. The last session was a social media overview. Here are the slides from the Twitter crash course:

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5 Reasons to Keep Your Twitter Disclaimer

An article published by Ragan Communications yesterday suggested that the “tweets represent my opinion, not my employer’s” disclaimer in Twitter bios is unnecessary, perhaps even harmful, and urged its demise.

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UK-based Stuart Bruce, in an article reprinted from Stuart Bruce’s PR Guy Musings, said disclaimers should go because 1) Many people will never see them, 2) They don’t protect you from legal liability, 3) People will associate your comments with your employer anyway, so a disclaimer can create a false sense of security and 4) the real solution is good corporate social media policies and effective employee education on the policies or guidelines.

While I essentially agree with all four of those points, I believe getting rid of what I like to call “the personal responsibility clause” would be a mistake.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s the social media equivalent of TSA screening. The security benefits of removing shoes and belts, laptops and one-quart bags with liquids and gels for x-ray examination are questionable, too. But having most passengers endure this ritual enables otherwise wary travelers to board airliners with more confidence than they would in the absence of such a process. Likewise, having the social media disclaimer enables corporate leaders to more easily reconcile themselves to having employees posting opinions publicly.
  2. It’s not an ongoing burden. You don’t include the disclaimer in every tweet. Unlike TSA screening, which inconveniences passengers on every flight, once you have added your disclaimer to your Twitter bio, you don’t need to do it again.
  3. It’s free. Maybe it “costs” a few of the 160 characters in your Twitter bio that you could otherwise use to describe yourself, but having the disclaimer has no out-of-pocket cost.
  4. There is a difference between association with your employer and speaking for your employer. In a presentation I uploaded to Slideshare today, I outlined a series of “Bad and Ugly” examples of conduct on Twitter. No disclaimer can protect your employer from the impact of a truly stupid action you take, but most things you say or do on Twitter hopefully won’t fit that description. And many of the most troublesome Twitter gaffes resulted from employees mistakenly posting tweets on their employers’ accounts that had been intended for their personal accounts. The same content on personal accounts likely would not have caused the controversies.
  5. A disclaimer is a declaration of your right to express a personal opinion online. It’s not just a disclaimer of responsibility for speaking on behalf of your employer; it’s staking your claim, your right as an American (for those of us in the former colonies), to have and express opinions. The disclaimer/declaration is a reminder of that right and the associated responsibility.

Of course if part of your day job is to speak for your employer, the lines get a bit murkier. For example, our Mayo Clinic CEO doesn’t have the disclaimer on his Twitter bio; because of his office, he does speak for Mayo Clinic. The same may be true in some cases for those of us who work in PR, which may be part of Mr. Bruce’s point.

But for most employees in most organizations, the personal responsibility clause/disclaimer should stay.

At least that’s my personal opinion. It’s also in our Guidelines for Mayo Clinic Employees.

What do you think?

Twitter Email Alerts Much Less Useful After Change

Twitter has taken a minor but annoying step back in the usefulness of its email notifications.

I have selected relatively few types of email updates to receive from Twitter, but one of the ones I had appreciated was notification that someone has sent me a direct message. And in the old days (meaning maybe a month ago), the text of the direct message was sent along with the email.

In the last week or two that has changed, and not for the good. Here’s a message I got yesterday:

New message on Twitter

Really, Twitter? You send me the alert, and you purposefully removed the content of the message?

This looks like something done to increase page views on, but not thinking of the users and what they need or prefer.

It’s a minor annoyance, and I didn’t say anything at first. But after having this happen a few times, I decided to take a few minutes for a post, because it relates to a larger point that applies to all of us.

Think about the changes you make in your online interfaces, and how they serve (or may annoy) users.  Don’t make them work harder to get the information they need. You may have valid business reasons for your changes, but if you’re making withdrawals from your reservoir of customer good will and loyalty, the benefits may not be worth the cost.

Even more importantly, try not to get into these cost/benefit calculations. Just do the right thing for the customer (as Twitter generally has until this point.) Doing the right thing will be better for everyone (including you) in the long run.

I was disappointed to see Twitter swerve into this short-term thinking. It’s a good reminder for me to be sure that what we’re doing keeps users and their needs first.

Update (2/25/14): I just noticed that Twitter has returned to a more useful direct message email notification. Looking back through my deleted emails, it appears this happened back on Feb. 12 or 13.

David Harlow DM

Good deal.


Thanks to Tweetcamp Counselors!

Yesterday as part of my presentation for the Benedictine Development Symposium in Schuyler, Nebraska I did a little demo to show the Tweetcamp participants the speed and reach of Twitter.

The exercise was amazing; within less than an hour we had responses from Australia, Spain, Sweden and Italy and several Canadian provinces (including one tweeted from an airplane), as well as about 20 U.S. states.

Thanks to everyone who retweeted or replied! You made an impression on the participants in the symposium!

The participants found the content of your tweets encouraging and inspiring, too…not just the wide geographic dispersion.  Thanks for your help!
















Delta Does Twitter Right

If you’re looking for an example of how customer service can be enhanced through Twitter, here’s a personal case study involving Delta Airlines and its @DeltaAssist account.

On Tuesday, due to some storms, the departure for my flight from Orlando was bumped back from 4:41 p.m. to 5:26, putting the ETA in Salt Lake City for my connection to San Francisco at 8:04.

Which was unfortunate since the flight to SFO was to depart at 8.

So I received an automated call from Delta while in Orlando telling me that my flight had been delayed and I would be rebooked. When I called to inquire about options, it turned out that the best they could do was to get me on an 8:30 flight Wednesday morning, arriving at 9:42 … only about two hours before my scheduled keynote in the Health Care and Life Sciences track at the Dreamforce conference.

Not an ideal situation, especially since I had a non-cancellable reservation in San Francisco and would need to also book a room in Salt Lake City. My hosts would have been nervous, too.

But then a funny thing happened. Because of the delay, several people had switched bookings to go through Atlanta instead of SLC. That meant the plane boarded more quickly, and we were able to get off the ground by 5:28 EDT. And the pilot said he was going to try to make up time.

Then, as I tracked the flight’s progress using the onboard wifi, I saw that we were now estimated to land at 7:40. So, from 38,000 feet over Arkansas, I opened a Twitter conversation with @DeltaAssist and Irene O. Here are our private tweets:

As it turned out, we landed at 7:38 and got to the gate by 7:42. I was quickly off the plane and made it to the gate for SFO by 7:48, or about 2 minutes before the scheduled close of the boarding door.

I think it’s highly unlikely I would have been able to explain and organize everything if I had needed to wait until I landed. So this service probably saved me $150 or more since I didn’t have to get an extra hotel room.

At the very least it gave me peace of mind.

Thanks to Delta and Irene O. for showing how customer service should be done.

What examples do you have of companies using Twitter to improve customer service?