Think Before You Tweet: How Free Speech Can injure Your Brand

Think Before You Tweet: How Free Speech Can injure Your Brand  |  Hue & Tone Creative

The following article is a guest contribution from Tamika M. Page. 

Twitter debuted March 21, 2006 when co-founder Jack Dorsey posted the inaugural Tweet which read, "just setting up my twttr."  While Jack was off launching what is arguably one of the biggest communications technologies of the last century, which currently averages about 328 million monthly active users according to Statista, an online statistics company, I was somewhere in the world learning the importance of thinking before I spoke.  Journey with me, if you will, back to Atlanta circa 2001.

At an early morning yard sale, I enthusiastically remarked to a potential customer that she looked like a lady basketball coach. She wasn’t flattered. In fact, she gave me a strange look, put down the candle sticks she had been eyeing and walked away obviously offended. Needless to say, I lost the sale. After fighting the urge to yell, “hey lady, that was a compliment,” I decided to ask some trusted advisors what they thought of the strange exchange. The results were mixed. My Grandmother heard genuine praise while my best friend stared at me in shock; as if I’d lost my mind for uttering the thought aloud. My brother laughed for what seemed like five minutes while my mentor gave me a copy of The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners.  How was it possible for one statement to spur multiple and varying reactions?


Meanings get lost in translation.

What I was attempting to express was that this lady had an athletic physique, a beautiful haircut and reminded me of the late, great Pat Summitt, coach for Tennessee Lady Vols. However, my meaning was somehow lost in translation. Why? Well, this woman and I had two different world-views, or lenses through which we viewed the world. What I meant was not at all what she heard. It seems this plays out repeatedly on Twitter. Every week some high-profile individual is reprimanded, or a company is hit with a wave of backlash for an uninhibited Tweet. While my impulsivity cost me, at most, seven dollars, these professionals and companies lose big when they quickly and, oftentimes, thoughtlessly take to social media with their opinions, jokes and grievances.


Your Tweet could be interpreted as an official declaration of war.

Think Before You Tweet: How Free Speech Can injure Your Brand  |  Hue & Tone Creative

After President Trump exercised his First Amendment right via Twitterverse, North Korea’s Foreign Minister, Ri Young Ho, responded with the following, “Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make all self-defensive counter measures.”

You could lose your job, at least for a couple of weeks.

Take the case of ESPN’s Jemele Hill who Tweeted her opinion on how the public should respond to Jerry Jones’s threat to bench any Cowboy’s player who didn’t stand during the National Anthem. ESPN accused Hill of violating the company’s social media guidelines for a second time and suspended her for two weeks. Hill is lucky when one considers other celebs like Gilbert Gottfried who lost his endorsement with Aflac after posting Tweets making light of Japan’s 2011 tsunami.

Think Before You Tweet: How Free Speech Can injure Your Brand  |  Hue & Tone Creative
Think Before You Tweet: How Free Speech Can injure Your Brand  |  Hue & Tone Creative

You could lose customers and respect.

Home Depot quickly parted ways with a social media representative who posted a racially insensitive Tweet targeting African Americans from the brand’s Twitter account. The company decided to Tweet apologies, sans their media rep. When they directed one of these apologies specifically to Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the NAACP, it only made matters worse.


3 Ways to Avoid Twitter Faux Pas

1.     When in doubt, don’t: We all have a little voice inside us that nags right when we’re about to say or do something that might lead to unwanted trouble. If you possess the slightest inclination that your post may be inappropriate or could be misconstrued as such, don’t Tweet it out. It’s much easier to refrain than to retract.

2.     Never go to bed angry or Tweet that way either: Acting from anger is seldom a good idea. Typically, we behave in ways we later regret. Therefore, instead of Tweeting in this state, go for a walk, take deep breaths, do the stanky leg, whatever. The point is to delay expression until you’ve calmed down. This can potentially save your relationship as well as your reputation.

3.     Ask for Help: Consult a firm that specializes in multimedia communications. You may know construction or cakes or calligraphy, but framing your company’s messages perfectly is a specialty in itself. Outsourcing this all-important task will protect your brand and frees you to focus on what you do best.

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Meet the writer:

Tamika Page works as a marketing assistant and instructor in Atlanta, GA. Her first words were “increase market share.” Although her first words were far less remarkable than previously stated, she does have extensive experience in helping small businesses grow and discover their unique identities.

Want to chat with Tamika directly?