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This Standard Bank Blunder Can Teach Us Something About Twitter 101

It's so easy to mess up on social media. One misspoken word can mean the difference between a great message and a disastrous one.

06/03/2017 05:01 SAST | Updated 06/03/2017 06:56 SAST
Mike Hutchings / Reuters

It's so easy to mess up on social media. One misspoken word can mean the difference between a great message and a disastrous one. Standard Bank messed up big time recently. It's unclear what went through the social media manager's head when he/she posted it, and the consequences were fairly catastrophic.

On the morning of February the 9th, this tweet appeared on their account:

Twitter

There was so much wrong with this tweet, it was hard to pin down just one response. You'd think it would be obvious how inappropriate it was, yet something – the direction of the wind, the alignment of the planets, or perhaps a severe blow to the head – caused them to send this out into the Twittersphere.

Twitter had a field day.

Twitter

Twitter

Despite being dismally executed, you can see what they were trying to achieve here. They were excited about the fact that it was February, the month of love. They wanted to tweet something witty and relevant to the theme. It would have been perfect had it not been so ignorant, innumerate, illiterate, and sexist.

It seems that Standard Bank might need a little help with the basics of social media. Following these three rules of Twitter 101 might have saved the organisation a ton of embarrassment:

1. Steer clear of pretty much everything.

Remember your mom telling you never to discuss politics or religion in polite company? That goes for your organisation's Twitter account too, and while you're at it, throw race, sex, and gender in for good measure. These topics have no business on your social media platforms. If you can imagine having an argument about it with your little sister, put that tweet down and back away slowly.

2. Check yourself.

Even if you're a lone ranger, (which, in the case of Standard Bank, I find hard to believe), try to run your tweets by a colleague before sending them out into the world. While it's not necessary to get everything vetted, sometimes, you'll have an inkling that what you're about to say might be teetering just on the edge of offensive. Pause for a moment and chat to a colleague about it.

3. Hold your horses.

Related to point 2, always take a breath or three before tweeting. You want to tweet the hot topics, ensuring that your content is relevant and attention-grabbing. But as excited as you might be about broadcasting something to your clients, waiting a few minutes or even – gasp - an hour for your colleague to read over your draft might save you your job. Your "LOL" might just turn out to be someone else's "OMG, you can't say that!"

Standard Bank came back quite nicely from their faux pas and we can learn from their response:

Twitter

The comeback was clever, in that it used their own, previously mortifying hashtag, and turned it into something more appropriate.

When you make a social media blunder, apologise – swiftly and sincerely. Don't even think about getting involved in arguments, flame wars, or defensive language. Hold an emergency meeting if necessary, so you can brainstorm your response. (I'd have loved to be a fly on the wall at the Standard Bank head office on the day this happened...)

Now repeat after me: 1. Steer clear, 2. Check yourself, 3. Hold your horses... and most importantly, if you're thinking about tweeting about what women want, make sure you are one.