My social media slip-up (and a reminder of its importance)

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This was not an ordinary call. While I will need to disguise many aspects of this story because it cuts close to current business relationships and the issue relates to my disclosing confidential information, I can tell you I was shocked when the aggrieved person rightfully asserted I had not corrected the problem, even though I thought I had avoided any difficulties by revising the offending story a day earlier.

As it turned out, I had posted a news piece on one of the company’s websites that should have not gone public — at least in the form it appeared. Just a few hours after posting the article, and (according to traffic counts, only a few people had viewed it), I corrected the story to remove any problematic material — and thought I had solved the problem without causing any further discomfort.

Boy, was I wrong.

I forgot that our systems post articles on Facebook and Twitter social media feeds, and these posts don’t disappear unless I delete them separately. And it didn’t take me too long to almost want to slip under my desk when i realized what had happened, and why I deserved the angry call.

So I removed the posts.

But wait.

The aggrieved individual sent email with a third social media article, which I didn’t even know existed. It seems that our system were crossposting and the feed from one social media link appeared on another — and, well, as the person complaining said: “We’ve been getting calls about it.”

Think about it. A single story posted on our website, and revised/corrected just a few hours after I discovered my mistake, had managed to morph into a social media message that had spread its tentacles way beyond what I could have expected.

And this wasn’t a “viral” social media story. At most the topic would be of relevance to only a few dozen or, if you want to go wider, maybe 100 to 200 individuals. But this is social media — and that means the people who would most likely see the offending news clearly know me, and each other, and would have good reason to be concerned about the error I made.

I’m reminded from this experience about the subtle and yet exceptional power that social media has for communications, for both good and bad. Yes, let us remember we can magnify our impact — but be aware that when things go wrong, they can spread quite far and quickly, too. Thankfully, on my third try, I was able to solve the problem.

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