Dangerous Posts: How Twitter Can Make or Break a Career

You can’t avoid it. Students, parents, schools, businesses, non-profits, politicians, athletes, and celebrities are all tweeting. Many of you will be tweeting on behalf of a company or organization in the coming months, if you’re not already. That’s why it’s so important to remember the Internet is forever, and an inappropriate 140-character tweet could potentially break a career, before it even starts.

Need proof? Just search for ‘Twitter mishaps’ and you’ll find dozens of stories of people who got fired for tweeting unsuitably. Recently, Greek Olympian Voula Papachristou was expelled from her country’s Olympic team after posting a racial joke to Twitter. So, here comes our first piece of advice: avoid controversial topics.

“Politics, religion, race, and relationships all tend to fuel fire,” said Dana Haesemeyer, Rasmussen College Online Community Manager. “Unless you are trying to make a name for yourself based on opinion, always err on the side of caution.” This especially holds true if you are tweeting on behalf of a business. Haesemeyer says companies and organizations are held to a different standard, and you don’t want to offend your customers. Instead, focus on your company’s brand and find a niche.

“If you are a restaurant, for example, tweet about recipes, cookware, and all those cooking shows,” said Haesemeyer. “Stay away from politics or controversial topics such as what side of the same sex marriage debate you stand on.”

Haesemeyer says it’s also important to pay attention to trending articles and current events. You don’t want your company or organization to come across as insensitive, like a recent Twitter post by the National Rifle Association (NRA). As the world woke up to learn of the mass shooting in Colorado that left 12 people dead on July 20, a Twitter account for the NRA said, “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”

“The NRA advocates for gun owners, so there is nothing wrong with the branding of the Tweet,” said Haesemeyer. “It was just poor timing, and the general public found it insensitive.” CelebBoutique, an online store that lets people fashion themselves after their favorite celebrities, also came across as a bit insensitive that day. The movie theater shooting happened in Aurora, Colorado, so #Aurora was trending on Twitter. CelebBoutique made a joke saying Aurora was trending because of its Kim Kardashian inspired Aurora dress. It’s a good example to always check a Twitter trend before commenting on it.

Our last piece of advice, whatever you choose to tweet, make sure you think twice before posting it. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, voice of the Aflac duck, made some jokes about the Japanese tsunami over Twitter. Aflac, the largest insurance company in Japan, fired Gottfried less than an hour after discovering the Tweets. Then there is the potential employer, like Connor Riley who had a job offer from Cisco. She tweeted, “Cisco just offered me a Job! Now, I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” Needless to say, Cisco monitors the web, and Riley lost her job offer. And remember that whole Internet living forever part? Well, this happened three years ago – and people are still talking about.

“You want to be true to yourself, but not in a way that’s going to cause you to lose opportunities in the future,” said Haesemeyer. “Remember, speed is not what’s important. It’s timeliness. Use your best judgment, and ask yourself, ‘Would I be embarrassed if my mother or grandmother read this?’.”

Do you have other examples of ‘Twitter mishaps’ to watch out for? Tell us how Twitter has either helped or hurt you in our comments section below.

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