Poor Governor Sam Brownback from Kansas. He thought he was doing the right thing. He was told to pay attention to social media, so he put together a staff to do just that (or instructed his current staff to pay attention). They were out there, watching the Twittersphere as they were told. The only bad part is that they didn’t know what to do when they found something.
ot wanting to rehash, but here’s the backstory from NPR.
Before going straight into the moral of the story, I want to highlight an error in reasoning that prevented this article from being written earlier. When I first heard about the story, I assumed that it was another case of a mishandled social media post, that the Governor’s office saw a perceived threat and made the choice to go to the organization with whom the girl was associated rather than dealing with it publicly. It’s a judgment call when dealing with social media. Sometimes going head-on via the social media outlet is the right thing to do and sometimes working behind the scenes is better.
My error was in not looking closely enough. I made the terrible assumption that the girl had a following and was sparking discussion around her Tweet. Today, I discovered that she had 65 followers at the time of the Tweet. 65. The Tweet was, for all intents and purposes, completely invisible. It wasn’t a threat. It basically didn’t exist.
Now, it does. Dozens of mainstream media publications, national television, and talk show hosts are discussing it because someone in Brownback’s office thought it was a brilliant idea to take an invisible Tweet and turn it into something. They made it tangible by addressing it at all.
This wasn’t a case of a bad call between addressing it publicly versus addressing it behind the scenes. This is a case of someone working in a politician’s office who was tasked with monitoring social media who didn’t have the slightest idea what social media really was. This isn’t the fault of the staff member or the staff in general. This is Governor Brownback’s fault for entrusting something as important as social media to someone who wasn’t qualified.
Within the first day of training, our social media interns are made aware of what’s important and what isn’t. They are taught to recognize when something “doesn’t exist” in the realm of social media. Many times, if a person has less than 5,000 Twitter followers and they don’t get retweets or responses within 24 hours of posting something negative, we choose to ignore it. It’s the “tree falling in a forest with nobody around” circumstance.
Even with local social media monitoring and management, someone needs 1,000 Twitter followers to be on our radar. This girl had 65.
Politicians are especially vulnerable to attacks even more so than businesses. If you are a politician or work in political office, be sure to hire someone on staff who has a clear understanding of social media. The results of poor decisions are amplified in social media more than any other medium.