This story originally appeared in PRWeek Insider on April 18, 2011 (subscription required).
Two weeks ago a Marc Jacobs intern publicly melted down on Twitter and then quit. Two weeks before that, Chrysler experienced some Twitter road rage, and an agency was fired. And two weeks before that, the Red Cross had to confiscate the keys from their tweeter for #gettngslizzerd.
Imagine if these accidents had happened in a healthcare setting? We don’t need FDA guidelines to understand the hot water we’d be in.
Pharma company Twitter feeds are heavily stage-managed. Posts are vetted by an army of regulatory and legal staff, and updates are timed like Obama’s inauguration. The few branded Twitter feeds are even more tightly controlled. But who tweets and how? It’s usually a junior staffer copying and pasting the approved post and frequently using their own choice of software. That’s the weak link. The examples at the beginning are a cautionary tale of people inadvertently mixing their personal and professional profiles, and of tweeters going off the rails.
Software Rx: Twitter feeds are frequently handled using a dashboard like Hootsuite which can manage a number of feeds at once and offers analytic capabilities for tracking tweets and mentions. It can handle Facebook pages as well, enabling you to easily syndicate content selectively across the social platforms. Even multiple clients can be set up. The lure is strong to add your personal accounts, and create a mothership dashboard so you can be complete master of your domain. Resist it, it’s a bad idea. It’s all too easy to click the wrong icon and post to the wrong account – especially late at night or in a busy airport. One wrong click and you blast your personal tweet about that new band to your client’s followers. Or, you might post that handbag website to your client’s Facebook page. Amusing, yes, but it’s not as funny the next morning.
The best practice is to create separate dashboards for work and personal accounts using different email addresses and logins. Then using themes, give them radically different colors and backgrounds so you can easily distinguish between them, no matter how flummoxed you might be. For added safety, consider using different browsers, like Chrome for work and Firefox for personal.
Mobile Rx: The same goes for mobile devices. For tweeting on the go, use a different mobile app for your clients and personal tweets. Put them on different pages or folders. Don’t tweet and drive.
Content Rx: If you’re tweeting for a pharma company or brand, your hands are already tied and the blinders are on, just carefully press ‘send,’ per the above. If you’re fortunate enough to be tweeting for a hospital or association in a less structured way, you need to have some guidelines for the voice of your feed. You are the spokesperson of the brand, and while you want personality and authenticity, behave as if your every tweet could be on the cover of USA Today, because if you screw up, it will be. Consider using a workflow where tweets are approved before they are issued.
So take your medicine and tweet me in the morning @markhdavis.