Yes, There Are Crazy People on Twitter

A few weeks ago, a Human Resources blogger had a problem with a follower on Twitter. In short, an anonymous guy told this blogger that he wanted to rape her toddler daughter.

Really.

Then he tweeted that he wouldn’t apologize for it.

Just awful.

Twitter can be a great B2B or B2C marketing tool; however, just like any social networking site, it has its share of idiots. There are sad and lonely souls in this world — people with mental illness and delusions of invincibility. When those individuals find an opportunity to express themselves in horrible ways, they take it.

And many companies and business leaders worry about what would happen if their employees got into a “Twitter fight” with an unhappy customer.

  • What if it escalates?
  • What if someone says something awful about the brand?
  • What if my employee feels threatened? What responsibilities do I have?

My normal advice is simple. You have a choice to ignore, respond to or block someone. If you feel something illegal has happened or your employee is at risk, call the police. Most fears are overstated. Focus on creating relationships and nurturing your most loyal fans. The offensive tweets are no big deal.

But then I saw the aforementioned tweet about harming a toddler and I had a visceral reaction. I wanted to see what Twitter would do in response, so I sent them a note and asked them to close the offensive account.

They responded no.

Hello,

We understand that everyone has different levels of sensitivity towards content, and that you may feel uncomfortable with the posted content. However, Twitter provides a communication platform, and users may use our service to discuss controversial subject matter.

If a specific user is posting content that you disagree with or otherwise find offensive, we have provided you with the ability to block the user. For more information on blocking users, see:

https://support.twitter.com/entries/117063

Twitter believes strongly in the importance of free speech and works to ensure that such speech is maximized. Limiting speech on Twitter (and other social communication tools) could result in the highly undesirable outcome of speech that is allowed offline being restricted online. We are strongly opposed to this, as this could cause issues with the practical expression of information.

In summary, Twitter can’t do anything for you because they believe in freedom of speech.

How lovely.

So my advice still stands for B2B and B2C engagement on all social networking sites.

  • Create an editorial calendar that reflects your voice.
  • Understand your rules of engagement.
  • Train your employees to effectively monitor your brand.

You can also use a social media marketing company to help you make good decisions about when to interact with your disaffected customers, when to ignore them and when to call the police because something scary is about to happen.

And as a side note — it’s good to hear that Twitter believes in freedom of speech and controversial ideas because they recently acquired Whisper Systems/RedPhone, an encryption service used to help protect the identity of many dissidents during the Arab spring and Egyptian uprising.

So be careful out there, call us if you need some quick advice on social media marketing and remember that you have a choice as to how you can respond to people on Twitter.

Especially the crazy ones.