The Cure-All to a Twitterverse Attack: Just Apologize

Whether it’s in the personal or corporate realm, if you say something inappropriate in one tweet it has the potential to go viral and affect more people than you can possibly imagine, and man does it have some serious consequences. In the business world, it could mean getting fired from your job, like it did for ex-PR Executive Justine Sacco, when she made a “jokingly” remark about AIDS in Africa. Or, in a fictional case study when a company has a hashtag contest (#CanJetLuxury), via Twitter, and some of the responses to the contest are negative. The question being asked at the end is what should be done? Should the company, Canadian Jet, cancel the contest? The answer is NO. So, what should’ve been done to save Sacco’s career and save the #CanJetLuxury contest? The answer is simple, yet often hard to do, but just apologize.¬†And how do I know this? I have encountered this kind of situation myself and by being honest, and apologetic, I was able to remedy the situation at hand. Let me tell you my story of when the Twitterverse attacked me:

Jess3. "Twitterverse." 27 May 2009. Online Image. Flickr. 14 February 2014.

Jess3. “Twitterverse.” 27 May 2009. Online Image. Flickr. 14 February 2014.

My Personal Experience:

So, last semester I replied to one of my friend’s tweets, just because I knew what he was going through, and I knew from the moment I tweeted it that I should’ve worded the response differently. Even though my conversation was only between myself and one other person, before I knew it, other people I went to high school with were getting involved, thinking that this situation applied to them (which it certainly didn’t).

The next thing I knew, people were twisting my words around, making it seem like I was saying things that I didn’t say, and it even got to the point where people were talking negatively about me, publicly, on their Twitter profiles. As someone who despises conflict, I was freaking out and had no idea what to do.

The Solution:

So, what did I end up doing? Well, I applied the lesson I had always learned growing up to the social media realm: to be honest and apologize. First, I made a direct apology to the original person I was addressing in the first place, saying how I didn’t mean to come off the way people interpreted me and that I should’ve worded my response differently. Then, I made a public apology, so everyone who got involved, whether they chose to read it or not, saw that I was making an effort to admit that I was wrong in the situation. In the public apology, I basically just made a couple of tweets saying that I didn’t mean to offend anyone, and that I think my words were misconstrued. After the public and direct apologies, I felt a lot better about the situation and knew I was being the bigger person, and ultimately, doing the right thing.

The Results:

So, how did people react to my apologies? Well, the person who I was initially conversing with totally understood. In fact, he knew what I was saying from the start and accepted my apology graciously.

When I made the public apology, people started favoriting my tweets, I got text messages respecting how I handled the situation, and the negative tweets with the topic of myself (from other people) seemed to cease. These were all signs, to me, that I was being forgiven, in a way.

After the apologies, I immediately felt better, but still uncomfortable about the situation. Yet, as time went on, my stance on the predicament changed, and I realized that I didn’t regret what I said; I just had wished I had worded it differently so people wouldn’t have misinterpreted me.

Breadmore, Ross. "Mean Twitter Bird." 17 November 2009. Online Image. Flickr. 14 February 2014.

Breadmore, Ross. “Mean Twitter Bird.” 17 November 2009. Online Image. Flickr. 14 February 2014.

Lessons Learned:

Overall, what did I takeaway from this Twitterverse attack? I can sum it up in a few main points:

  • If you’re wrong in the situation, admit it
  • Be honest and apologize- both directly and publicly
  • Don’t wait with the apology
  • After the apology, let time take it’s course¬†-Like with anything, time heals all wounds
  • Be EXTREMELY CLEAR with what you’re saying on social media
  • If you can’t explicitly articulate what you want to say, DON’T POST IT
  • The Twitterverse is made up of people, like you and me, who all eventually forgive, forget, and move on

In sum, this situation wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, I think it did me some good, because it allowed me to know what to do in these kind of situations, when the Twitterverse attacks. And you know what, you could even say that it made me stronger. So, thank you, Twitterverse, I will now be prepared if you ever decide to attack again.

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