How Twitter Can Create Its Own News Cycle

It has been a busy month for Twitter. Seth Rogen went to Twitter to show that Senators did not show up – and even left – during his testimony on Alzheimer’s. The hashtag #CancelColbert trended for two days based on an insensitive Tweet that a staffer sent out from the handle @StephenColbert. Finally, the NYPD got huge blowback for a Twitter campaign that was supposed to encourage people to take photos of them with New York’s finest but ended up with people posting photos of police abuse.

What can companies learn from these Twitter case studies?

First, Twitter and Instagram are a great way to show people what’s happening behind the scenes. If you were watching Seth Rogen’s testimony on TV, you assumed there was a full docket of Senators behind him. In fact, there were only a few and some even left during Seth’s testimony. Seth’s wife, Lauren, took a photo of the near-empty room and Seth Tweeted out how Alzheimer’s must not be important to Senators. One Senator even Tweeted “Thanks” to Seth, which Seth immediately Tweeted back, asking why he left. While Seth’s testimony got lots of media coverage, it was this behind-the-scenes photo and rapid response Tweets that kept him in the news for days.

Secondly, the CEO of a company can’t control every Tweet that goes out, as was the case when Comedy Central Tweeted out a racist-sounding Tweet via a handle that appeared to be Colbert’s. Colbert, being the comedy genius that he is, did an entire segment on the crisis and then cancelled that Twitter handle. Sometimes when things go awry on social media, you have to lick your wounds, be self-deprecating, apologize and move on. Every year there are cases where someone sends an inappropriate Tweet on behalf of a company. Many C-Suite executives who don’t understand how social media works just delete the post and stick their head in the sand, waiting for the crisis to pass. Instead, there are ways to take a negative and turn it into a positive.

Finally, you have to assess risk and reward before you begin a social media campaign. On the heels of stop and frisk, the NYPD is not the most beloved organization in New York City. Surely someone raised a red flag when the idea was thrown out there that the NYPD should encourage people to take photos! The fact is there will always be risk when you ask the public to participate, and all it takes is a very small audience to create a large uproar. Social media campaigns have to be very carefully thought out, which includes how to respond to (and if you should respond to) this small, but loud antagonistic audience.