classical example how NOT to use Social Media

The joy of social media

You know what I like about Social Media in general and twitter in particular? The speed with which topics pop up and get a momentum. Sometimes you can watch how a hashtag gets trending in your twitter feed within minutes and how it builds up power within hours.

This happened 2 days ago again on MY twitterfeed (@BarbFFM). The hashtag was #PeaceforFriedrichBrandt

Most of you will ask now “Peace for whom??” Well, I thought the same thing when I saw it coming up the first time from the first person. And then I saw it appearing more and more. And isn’t that exactly how twitter works? Well, at least for me. When I see a topic coming up in my network from more than one or two people, I will have a look although I might not be super interested in the header.

#PeaceforFriedrichBrandt is about a young soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the battle of Waterloo in 1815. His full skeleton has been discovered in June 2012 under a car park and will now be put on display as a feature in an exhibition at the battlefield of Waterloo. I won’t go into the historical details, there are lots of people out there who can do that way better and more precise than I do.

Despite the fact that I think displaying human remains as a tourist attraction is dishonourable and disgracing this young man, this blogpost is actually not about this story itself. And just as a side effect it touches the campaign that has been kicked off to provide this young soldier with a decent burial. If you want to learn more about it, please follow the hashtag on twitter or visit the following facebook page

Gaining momentum

No, what I want to talk about – using this as an example – is how NOT to use Social Media and how NOT to react to requests and criticism.

This hashtag has been taken up by German Military Historian Robin Schäfer (@GERArmyResearch) who started tweeting about the story and the disgrace to bring it to the attention of the world. Involving and mentioning those twitter accounts he thought to be best to approach about it. He used quite a couple of, but I am picking out here @WhyBelgium the account of the Belgian Tourist Office for Brussels and Wallonia or @FrancoiseScheepers, the Director of it, because their behavior and reaction is a classic example on what NOT to do when you get criticized for something you do on twitter.

Other historians from various countries took it up, retweeting and commenting on those tweets, all approaching the original audience. I read through the various conversations, deliberately not getting involved as I would have been way too emotional– which would have not helped the purpose at all.

I actually admired the involved parties on the #PeaceforFriedrichBrandt side to stay on the topic that much, I couldn’t have. So, I kept reading, liking and retweeting to keep the momentum and inform my twitter followers about what is going on in Waterloo.

What did I see that bothered me that much?

So, how NOT to react?

  • Don’t blame people on twitter to use twitter as a public medium instead of approaching you privately and more discreetly
  • Don’t lash out to criticism with a plain “your view is wrong and we are right
  • Don’t try to turn the attention from in saying “they are also doing it” – getting “they” into the discussion


  • Don’t get personal and never question the professionalism and experience of your counterparts
  • Don’t get and act miffed just because people question something you are doing? Even if they are doing it very intensely
  • Don’t get defensive
  • and last but not least: Don’t use Social Media if you are not up for the publicity it comes with

I could have embedded tweet upon tweet to show what I mean, there were quite a few examples where I thought I wouldn’t read correctly with regards to childish behaviour.

What to keep in mind when using Social Media

  • when you have an account, be prepared that you get contacted
  • if you have a public role, be prepared that you get contacted on your “private” account
  • there is no privacy
  • the internet doesn’t forgive nor forget – what you post will stick to your name forever
  • shitstorms are coming fast if users think you behave inappropriate

Conclusion: twitter and co. are great channels to interact with your audience. But just because you might be a great PR person, doesn’t mean that you are ready for Social Media. And worse than not being visible on twitter or another channel? Not knowing how to use it.



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