Twitter has allowed diverse corners of society to interact in a public square unlike ever before. While Twitter has been a boon to journalists and celebrities, the platform can be a double-edged sword for these public figures.
The feelings and opinions of public figures that used to be layered behind publicists, editorial boards, and common courtesy now have the opportunity to be laid public and tarnish a person’s image within seconds. One poorly considered tweet can take a wrecking ball to your career, toppling your accomplishments like a house of cards.
It’s now shockingly easy to tweet away your career.
One incendiary tweet can incite a firestorm of boycotts and public shaming. Take David Hogg, for example. The Parkland school shooting activist recently took to Twitter to call for a boycott of Laura Ingram after she made distasteful remarks about his college acceptances. More than a dozen advertisers decided to pull their ads from her show in order to protect their brands from the public relations backlash.
After the 2016 presidential election, ABC executives met to create a “heartland strategy” for television shows that would reach Trump’s voting demographic. ABC decided to revive Roseanne, a popular blue-collar show from the 90’s. Roseanne later premiered to 27 million viewers (including streaming and DVR views) and became the number one show on television.
There was a prevailing fear, however, that Roseanne Barr’s past social media use would rear its ugly head and bring her show crashing down. While on a media tour before the show premiered in March, Roseanne herself admitted her children had quarantined her Twitter account. Barr said, “I didn’t want it [Twitter] to overshadow the show.” Unfortunately, like an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia punchline, that’s exactly what happened.
On May 28th, Roseanne posted a Twitter rant culminating in a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett. Within hours, Barr’s talent agency dropped her, the second revival season of Roseanne was canceled, and hundreds of people who worked on the show lost their jobs.
Can you offend people with your politics and still keep your job? That complex question requires a case-by-case analysis. In the case of Roseanne, she may be able to express her opinion freely. But since she works for a private entity, she is beholden to their interests. That’s why she lost her job.
The ABCs of Brand Safety
Whether or not you keep your job after posting an incendiary tweet depends on two words: brand safety. Brands desire to appeal to a wide range of people to sell their products. Being associated with incendiary viewpoints poses a huge risk to a brand’s image and, more frighteningly, its bottom-line. A private company often fires the offender right away so it can dissociate itself from the offender and cut its losses.
Barr’s Twitter feed has been replete with racist comments and conspiracy theories since she joined the platform. This serves as an important lesson for ABC: Who your brand associates with matters. The producers knew about her past tweets, still decided to make her the star in their new show, and suffered consequences.
To protect your brand, stay proactive when hiring someone to represent you.
Tips for Avoiding Career Mishaps on Twitter
Want to avoid going the way of Roseanne? We’ve put together a few tips for avoiding Twitter disasters so that your brand, career, and digital life remain squeaky-clean.
- Think Before You Tweet
The best course of action is to avoid posting something right when you think of it. While emotions may be temporary, your tweets are more permanent. “Hot takes” on current events are a minefield that’s best left untouched.
When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in 2017, University of Tampa Assistant Sociology professor Kenneth Storey tweeted that the storm was “karma” for Texas’s support of Republican policies. Storey was later fired for the tweet. While you may have a constitutional right to say what you want, you may not always like the consequences of what you say. CNN says it best: Think before you tweet.
- Write Like Everything Is Public
Think no one is paying attention to your tweets? Think again. MLB draft pick Ryan Rollison recently found himself in hot water after tweeting about his hope that then-President Barack Obama would be assassinated on the night of Obama’s reelection. That tweet was posted in 2012 when Rollison was 15, yet he suffered consequences years later.
Conversations and comments do not always stay private in our interconnected world. Comments, like Rollison’s, can come back to affect your career. Use this rule of thumb: What you post online should be the best reflection of who you are in real life. Be mindful of what you share. (And, maybe, strive to be a better person.)
- Keep Your Workplace Offline
A Texas mom landed a new job at a local daycare. On the day she got the job, she took to Facebook and complained that not only does she hate working at daycares, but that she hates working with children as well. The post quickly spread across social media, and she was promptly fired.
Posting workplace comments on any social media site is bound to reach either your supervisors or employers. Unless you are standing up for raising worker wages at local Chipotles, it’s best to keep the venting to the breakroom.
- Don’t Fight With Trolls
In the Disney movie Tomorrowland, Casey’s father uses a Cherokee parable called “Two Wolves” to teach her about internal struggle. He explains there are two wolves constantly fighting inside you: one wolf is good, and the other is evil. The one you feed is the one who wins.
The same parable applies to Twitter trolls. If you feed them with your attention, they can ruin your life. Often, digital trolls are provocateurs who simply want to get the worst response possible from you. Considering nearly 71 percent of employers examine social media accounts when screening candidates, it’s best to avoid Twitter fights altogether.
Words Have Consequences
Dustin McKissen made an excellent point in an article for Inc.com in response to the Roseanne situation: The problem isn’t that people aren’t thinking before they post, but that people have somehow “failed to internalize the consequences of being a reprehensible human being.” To paraphrase his point, think twice about why you think things.
Words have always had consequences. Twitter allows users to reach countless individuals and affect them in both positive and negative ways. When you take that extra moment to think about your choice of words, you take more responsibility and may even save yourself from trouble in the future.