Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Look Before You Tweet: Avoid Embarrassing Posts

Sometimes it’s good to take a second look at what you’re about to post on social media to avoid embarrassing posts.

Actor Charlie Sheen appeared on Today Tuesday to announce what many people had already learned the day before: that he was HIV positive.

It was a big story, at least as celebrity news goes. Naturally, that meant there was a lot of buzz about it on social media.

I was on Twitter when I saw an entertainment reporter’s tweet in my newsfeed. Before the link were these words: “I’m here to admit that I am in fact HIV positive.” It was followed by a link as well as an image of Sheen on Today’s set. But in my Twitter feed, I didn’t see the picture.

Let’s think about that for a minute.

I saw the tweeter’s name, that statement, in quotation marks, and a shortened web link. The tweet, though clearly quoting Sheen, made it appear the entertainment reporter was saying she was HIV positive.

I understand exactly what she was trying to do. Posting a surprising or noteworthy quote from a linked story is often a compelling way to get the fan/follower to click the link to read more. By adding quotation marks, it might have been clear to some that the reporter was quoting someone else, not making a statement. I don’t know for sure, however, that this was clear to everyone, and I don’t know that it’s wise to assume it would be.

The little quote trick works much better, I think, on Facebook where there’s not that annoying 140 character limit Twitter enforces. When you’re that short on available characters, you have to condense, and sometimes that means your post becomes a little too incomplete.

Adding the photo of Sheen was exactly the right thing to do as well, because it immediately puts the quote into its proper context. But when the photo doesn’t always appear with the tweet, the reader loses that context.

Part of my “real job” involves social media. No one knows better than I do how easy it is to inadvertently post something that could be read in a way that you don’t mean. (It’s worth mentioning that there’s a contingent of people who routinely look for things to mock or complain about, not to mention be offended by.)

Sometimes, the best of intentions won’t save you from having your social media post misinterpreted.

But giving that post another look — especially picturing how it’ll look in a newsfeed — might just save you a bit of potential embarrassment.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.