AP Twitter debacle highlights importance of social media policies

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Twitter is now an established corporate social media tool, and many companies have policies on its use and encourage staff to exploit it as a way to interact with customers, create brand loyalty and drive traffic to their sites.

However, it's still a medium that can cause problems, as that bastion of wire-breaking news, Associated Press (AP), discovered this week when two of its journalists covering the removal of Occupy protestors in New York were arrested.

Staff at the firm immediately posted this breaking update about the arrests on Twitter. But they were subsequently reprimanded for not putting it on the wire first, thereby undermining the value of AP's service and making Twitter the first source of the story.

However, Reuters' social media editor, Anthony de Rosa, questioned AP's warnings to staff, arguing that it is more important to adapt to the use of new tools than doggedly stick to old working practices.

"To bury our head in the sand and act like Twitter (and who knows what else comes into existence next month or five years from now?) isn't increasingly becoming the source of what informs people in real time is ridiculous," he said on his blog.

This difference in opinion on how Twitter should be handled by two of the world's leading digital media wires highlights the thought that all businesses must put into how they want staff to use social media, especially Twitter.

As we've reported on more than one occasion the service's instant, non-stop, real-time ethos can catch out those unaware of just how dangerous posting without thinking can be.

Furthermore, in an update to the story, AP's executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, told journalists that releasing such information on Twitter can put colleagues at risk.

"Even in the US, it's not outlandish to think that a tweet that's taken by someone in authority to be opinionated or sarcastic could lead to one of our staffers being held longer than necessary," Carroll noted.

"Imagine you're that staffer. Would you want to be kept behind bars by a colleague's thoughtless tweet?"

There aren't going to be many firms that have to worry about whether a message on Twitter could lead to a member of staff being banged up for longer than necessary, but it shows that you've got to think of all the possibilities in this brave new world of social media.

18 Nov 2011

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