The Perfect Tweet

Posted by

When is the right time to tweet?

I have a very special place in my heart for the city of Boston. One of my best childhood memories is when my parents would pack up my three brothers and I, throw us in the back trunk of our pale blue station wagon (wood paneling too, I think!) for the five-hour drive from Montreal to Boston, to visit our cousins there. The road trip seemed to last forever, and the four of us would tumble around in the trunk like a bunch of apples that got loose from the grocery shopping bag (imagine that… no seatbelts!). Thinking back, it felt like the trip took so long because of the anticipation of what was to come: spending time with our cousins, roaming shopping malls, going to the beach and the amusement parks… you know, being kids. Those road trips, sadly, stopped as we got older, but Boston came back into my life. The person who I was with at the time, got into Harvard University just as our relationship was getting serious. So, nearly every weekend, I would leave work a little bit early and drive to Boston to spend time with her. I would drive back at some point on Sunday. Driving from Montreal to Boston became like my daily commute to work and I fell in love with the city (all over again). That girl became my wife. Over the years, I’ve been to Boston countless times for speaking events and get-togethers. To this day, one of the most pivotal events in my digital life was taking part in the first-ever PodCamp (which was held in Boston). The people I met there are, to this day, some of my closest and most trusted friends. Not the kind of friends you collect on Facebook, but the kind that you can’t wait to see in their protein forms.


It was late at night and I was just crawling into bed in Cannes. I was over in Europe speaking at a corporate event for Cisco and the jet-lag was kicking in. I turned on CNN right before shut-eye and could not believe that two bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon. My original plan was to play around on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and my blog. I was going to share some of the information that I had been collecting over the past few days. Because of all the travel, I felt like I was slacking (just a little bit). My Twitter stream and Facebook newsfeed was filled – literally – with only two types of tweets:

  1. Those sending positive wishes and thoughts to everyone in Boston (I sent a few of those myself).
  2. Those telling everyone else to please shut-off, mute or turn down all of the typical self-promotional tweets (both to brands and individuals).

It’s number two that got to me.

Had I not turned on CNN late at night in France or looked first to the Twitter stream of Facebook feeds, I could have easily been an insensitive wonk. So, instead of tweeting anything, I just closed the lid of my MacBook Air and continued to watch CNN. When I woke up the next morning, it was still night time in North America. CNN (and the other news outlets) were regurgitating the same news. There was nothing new to report and – as with 24 hour news cycles – they were scouring the bottom of the barrels to speak to anyone who might have an opinion (no matter how misguided) on the subject. At this point, I turned to Fast Company and began reading a fascinating article on innovation. I was about to tweet it out and all I could say to myself is, "too soon?" I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure what the answer was.

What is the right protocol?

Yesterday, Steve Crescenzo wrote an op-ed piece for Ragan Communications titled, Guy Kawasaki is too ‘popular’ to stop autotweets during Boston bombings. In short the blog post chastises Kawasaki for not turning off his auto-tweets. Crescenzo blogs: "While the news about the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon was just being broken, and for several hours afterwards, most companies shut down their promotional efforts on Twitter and other social media. Most people and organizations rightly came to the conclusion that to continue to hawk their wares while a national tragedy was unfolding (and people were using Twitter to get and exchange news) was a little insensitive, to say the least." Adding fuel to this Twitter controversy, Kawasaki (who has over 1.2 million followers) tweeted: "Loving how people with less than 1,500 followers are telling me how to tweet…" There’s no doubt that going silent after offering up a thought of hope to the people in Boston is the simple and easy thing to do. But, when is it ok to start back up? It’s a touchy subject because of how sensitive the issue is, but was Guy Kawasaki really doing anything all that wrong? Individuals who are duly insulted can simply unfollow him. Individuals who are saddened by the event but want to take their mind off of it may have found solace and comfort in following some of Guy’s links (that were clearly not being created at the time of the tragedy). Was Kawasaki really doing anything wrong (perhaps, with the exception, of that tweet about how to use Twitter)?

Here’s what I saw…

When I opened my window to let some cool Cannes fresh air into my room after hearing about the bombings, people were still laughing, drinking, celebrating and chatting down by the pool. The other TV channels were showing movies, comedies, dramas and more. People were still engaged in social conversation and connectivity. Yes, we were rattled and we were thinking about it, but life went on… and it seemed to go on fairly quickly.

This isn’t about Crescenzo and it isn’t about Kawasaki. It’s about how Twitter has become mass media.

Kawasaki has a large following and this makes him a target. Brands are the same. Everybody is watching in a moment like this to see who gets it "right" and who is "messing it up." I am not defending Kawasaki, but simply pointing out that when I read Crescendo’s blog post, I hopped over to CNN and saw that dozens of people were killed and over 850 people were injured in an earthquake in Iran, at least 35 people dead in an earthquake in Pakistan, a teenager kills herself after alleged rape and bullying, a bomb in Bangalore injures at least 16 and many more global tragedies (think about Somalia, children dying because they don’t have a simple mosquito net in Africa, child slavery and the sex trade in the Philippines… and much more). Isn’t that blog post criticizing others just a little bit insensitive considering how many more people have died because of a tragedy at that, exact, moment in time? Shouldn’t all of our attention and tweets be directed at that and how to help humanity instead of being hurtful to our fellow human beings? Of course, Crescenzo did nothing wrong (and, for the record, he’s someone I have longed admired and I’m merely using his blog post as an example to tell a story). This is what it feels like: we are now treating individuals like brands and brands like individuals because of social media. The only difference is this: we’re treating social media like mass media, and that’s the truly depressing component. See, if Guy wants to tweet (or auto-tweet), the beauty of social media is this: I can choose to ignore, unfollow and never see brands and/or individuals (or their wares) in my feed. If someone retweets these entities, I can unfollow them too. I can keep my social media… social… and personal. I do not have to follow or engage with anyone that goes against my values. What I do hate is the fact that I wanted to share that Fast Company article on innovation, but I didn’t because I was worried what others might think. "Did Mitch just share a link after NOT saying something about Boston? How insensitive!" or it could have been, "Mitch, thanks for sharing that article, I needed something interesting to keep my mind off of the tragedies in Boston!"  Still, I’m not sure when is the right time to tweet or when I am offending someone. The truth is this: the fact that I have to worry about offending others and being the subject of an "so and so simply doesn’t get it" type of piece makes me want to delete all of my social media accounts. I’m human. I have emotions. I want to share. I’m not trying to be a jerk. I’m not trying to be insensitive. I’m also not trying to capitalize on a tragedy for my own financial gain. If you follow those rules… and follow your heart when it comes to what feels right to you – as an individual or a brand – isn’t that the best social media strategy? Otherwise, aren’t we just turning Twitter and Facebook and everything else into this strange, homogenous and sanitized mass media channel that we all revolted against in the first place?

What do you think?


  1. I’m probably the wrong person to explain this, as I don’t follow Guy Kawasaki’s twitter account, but I think that most people heave it wrong. Guy Kawasaki’s twitter account isn’t personal, it’s a brand spitting out links and articles(sorry Guy).
    That’s what it’s always been, it’s automated…we’ve known that for awhile so the point of going up and arms over him is stupid. However, the argument problem arises is that most people don’t see most twitter accounts that way, I see Guy’s as just an automated bot, but most people believe that brands twitter accounts have some form of personalization. That’s what us marketers are always talking about right? That brands need to have a personality and when it loses it’s personality that’s when we the people get upset.
    Did it upset me no? Again, I knew what his account is and I have no interest in it, because to me it’s similar to a sindicated bot(not again no offense to Guy). But I don’t think you should be afraid to share your opinion Mitch, your opinion whether we agree with it or not is why we follow you. If we wanted “nay sayers” we would follow them, we’re all :insert social media platform: to discuss, whether we disagree or agree and that’s the awesome power of it.

  2. Mitch I get both sides. My understanding and observation was the request being made to turn it ( twitter) off, was directed to businesses who use social media to talk about their offerings.
    Guy, you and me for that matter fall into an interesting category. We are personal brands vs corporate brands like Nike, Coke and Ford.
    I am not seeing harm is stopping tweeting for the rest of the day. Especially if you are a business based in the United States. I see it as a sign of respect for what our fellow humans are dealing with during this tragedy.
    Yes, there is tragedy in every corner of the world each day. It is an interesting dilemma we have on our hands, each year as social media morphs, expands and takes on new roles in our lives.
    Does it mean we want to stop being human and caring? Maybe someone would find a regular tweet a welcomed distraction.
    Does distraction really help us to be fully present?
    Are there any easy answers on this one?
    Will we really feel it is sanitized because we pause to reflect “How am I showing up in the world in this moment and am I living my purpose?”
    Or do tragedies like this give us the opportunity to ask ourselves better questions and then listen for those answers?

  3. I completely agree and had almost this exact conversation yesterday. People wasted a lot of energy telling other people how insensitive they were being. Not to mention, on top of those who may have decided not to turn auto tweets off, not everyone is in a position to immediately stop everything that has been set into motion (or maybe they didn’t hear the news at all for a few hours!!). I was at a conference with only my mobile devices. If I had had anything scheduled, it wouldn’t have been easy for me to stop them from going out.
    All that to say that while I tend to think that it was a good idea to not send out marketing type tweets for the remainder of the day, I just don’t understand the anger and the reaction surrounding tweets that did.

  4. Chris Brogan made a similar point on Twitter a mere couple of hours after the bombing and was summarily crucified. The trouble is that he was making a logical point during a time of raw, heightened emotion. I knew about the bombing within three minutes (thanks to Twitter) and the first thing I did was to run to my computer and put my Buffered posts on pause.
    It bothers me to see people or brands Tweeting during tragic circumstances. But I also recognize that it’s not my place to tell them how they should feel or behave. So while it bothers me, it doesn’t offend me.
    But of course that sentiment is excepted when a company tries to use it to, oh I don’t know, sell whole-grain cranberry scones.
    Coincidentally – had to finish typing this through misty eyes due to the tribute at the beginning of the Boston Bruins hockey game.

  5. Mitch, as a McGill grad and Boston native, your story resonated with me. Too often in social media, we follow the herd and usually without thinking things through. Now, I am certainly not advocating an Epicurious like response, but each brand needs to decide what works best for them. Discretion and a moratorium can’t hurt, but it’s not always necessary.

  6. I stopped tweeting and Facebooking etc so that Social Media outlets could be ‘available’ to the Boston situation for their use as they tried to cope with what happened. I got out of the way, turned it over to them and if they needed to use it as ‘mass media’ to help them, I was fine with that. Stepping away from imposing my conversation on my followers is no different for me than why I choose to be thoughtful in my conversation around others that are hurting, distracted and overwhelmed in real life. As the Boston incident unfolded, it was very much bigger than anything I had to say. Whether we like it or not, Boston absconded Social Media. It proved to be a decent and helpful tool. They temporarily imposed new parameters for the signal to noise ratio. Like I said, I’m okay with that.
    As for our sensitivity to other tragedies in the world, I think it is human nature to respond to what impacts us and affects us emotionally. It is why we don’t ALL go to ALL funerals. It doesn’t mean we are heartless because we didn’t attend our nephew’s second cousin’s girlfriend’s mother’s funeral. We gauge our participation based on our relationships to those around us where we have a ‘real’ connection.

  7. I think those who post, have the responsibility to be authentic to the expectations they’ve created over time. It’s what their audience wants from them, and it’s how they retain their credibility and individuality. I believe it’s the responsibility of the consumer to control and determine who and when to follow. That decision is going to be based on personal criteria.
    I have very strong ties to Boston too and did feel twinges of pain when someone pitching their book or some useless celebrity gossip mingled with grisly photos of the carnage on my streams. But when in our world is there not a horrific event occurring that makes our own content look insensitive, inappropriate or irrelevant? My guess is to go back to basics. Providers should know their audience, consumers should know their suppliers and both should regularly ensure there is still alignment.
    As to the human question, when is it too soon? If it crosses your mind, it probably is. If it doesn’t, but you get feedback from those you’re in alignment with that you were wrong, correct it. They will forgive you. The others do not matter.

  8. Understanding how to think after a sea change is always challenging. We are all trying to figure it out. It will evolve toward people acting together and away from “apeing” traditional media over time. So, the answer to your second last question is yes. But transparent or radical openness means everything is there, which in human discourse spans a wide band of thought and behaviour.

  9. OK. This is my own opinions and no reflection of my employer or any of my clients. Tomatoes and pies in the face are to be sent my way.
    This is all still new and we don’t yet have the social graces down. A lot of the etiquette for this new media has not been broached and we’re still foraging a path for ourselves. Glad that the conversation is alive and well though. So long as we can talk about what’s right and what’s wrong in a civil way without descending to group shout and mob rule I think there’s hope. I think we in mar/com set the tone for a lot of what’s expected of brands. How many ‘non-marketing’ people or folks who are ‘anti-all-marketing’ people were calling for brands to be quiet or criticizing auto-tweets? How many average regular people actually were upset to any degree? To a brand damaging degree?
    My concern about the ‘go silent for tragedy’ approach is that we are fast setting these platforms up to become the bad news channel. It is a big planet and bad things happen everywhere, everyday, and everywhere that there is not bad stuff happening there is good stuff and great stuff and mundane stuff and sublime stuff and stuff that’s just stuff.
    I for one don’t want everyone to stop talking about all of the other things that are in this world of ours because something bad is happening somewhere. If I followed Widget Co’s account, I expect that from time to time Widget Co will send out tweets regarding their product. Who am I, then, to suddenly shout at Widget Co to shut the hell up because bad things are happening and I feel bad?
    We’ve had our evening news interspersed with squeezing of charmin and fighting the soggies with cap’n crunch and zoom zoom zoom in a Mazda for years. The commercial break is not offensive or insensitive. It’s expected. Anticipated.
    I think we can all get behind the idea of brands jumping in and using a bad thing as a sales opportunity is not a healthy thing and should be avoided. I think we can all agree that brands leveraging the hashtag of something bad, or even something serious or something that’s just not there’s to stick themselves in amongst, has all of the tact and tastefulness of a door to door evangelist. I think the tweets that are not about bad stuff while bad stuff is still happening can – and should – be accepted. If we’re going to set boundaries for our brands, lets make it sensible ones. Otherwise let’s just shut down all of our accounts right now until bad stuff stops happening.

  10. Mitch,
    It’snot about Tweets nor Twitter, it’s about the asymmetric effect of mass media to blast a biased point-of-view.
    Where are the sensitive ‘shutdowns’ during the daily decimation of innocents abroad?
    Have we stopped caring about the real issues?

  11. As someone who was worried about a friend and her family running it was extremely annoying to have to read through other people’s fluffy tweets to find info. It is not a horrendous offense but it does point out the people who just use Twitter to broadcast vs those who are using it as a communication outlet and that is what made it look bad.
    I like Guy but don’t follow him because I don’t enjoy his tweeting style/volume but for the brands and people I do follow it made me question their engagement. And his tweet about follower count was just tacky and defensive.
    It is a matter of being on top of your communications and for brands I think less is better when your nation is in crisis and mourning.

  12. Incredibly thought provoking post Mitch. As a social manager myself I simply shut down our channels for the rest of the day and went silent out of respect. The truth really is, no one really knows what to do in a situation like this and I think emotion takes over. I wouldn’t say there’s a right or wrong way to respond, just be sensitive to the situation and those that affected. I have to say though that I was disgusted by the lack of judgement of those who tweeted in attempts to tie a promotional message back to this tragedy. It’s remarkable that anyone managing a social account could be in such a mindset to post so insensitively.

  13. Mitch,
    Several reactions to this post, not really sure where to start.
    1. In reading Mr. Crescenzo’s post it is pretty obvious he has an axe to grind with Guy, so I immediately discounted what he had to say.
    2. If I am reading the timelines correctly Guy was chastised about robo posting almost simultaneously with the Blasts, which happened at 2:50 pm according to Ed Davis, Boston’s Commissioner of Police.
    Guy’s tweet “Loving how people with less than 1,500 followers are telling me how to tweet…” went out at 2:48 pm.
    So a little quick on the trigger with the robo posting complaint, I think.
    3. Guy’s rebuttal tweet was insensitive and high handed, if it was directed at Mr Crescenzo then he may have felt the need to lash out (not recommended), if not then I’m hoping he regrets it.
    4. I tend to agree with you that whenever tragedies like this happen we must each deal with it in our own way whether we are Individuals or Brands and not be chastised for our actions unless they are truly detrimental, I did notice Guy posted several informational tweets as well and with his followers may have been very helpful to the situation.
    5. Social Media is now for better or worse, Mass Media and people are earning a living from it, no one expected TV, Cable and Radio to shut off their preprogrammed advertising.
    6. We can Pause and Reflect as needed but for us to change our daily routine in the face of events like this allows the perpetrators to win and this must not happen.

  14. My heart goes out to Bostonians, really. But as Mitch and some of you pointed out, these tragedies occur every day across the globe (regretfully). Are we to stop buffering for each and every one. Why is this one different from the others? Because it concerns the US of A? This sends out a false message that tragedies in the US are far worst than in the rest of the world and for that reason, everyone must stop tweeting. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of all things American but I think this is pushing it a tad.

  15. This seems like its really about respecting your audience on using Twitter.
    Should big names stop tweeting their wares during a tragedy? I would say so. It’s a sign of respect to their audience since they are likely to be tuning in to follow the events surrounding the tragedy and are unlikely to care about (or want to sift through) tweets about someone’s new book, webinar, or six second clip of cookie dunking. It just feels spammy, like the Kenneth Cole debacle.

  16. guy has been using auto tweets and ghost tweeting for a long time; I’ve never been a fan, mostly because I think it tends to present an incorrect impression of the person- it merely becomes a broadcast publicity channel, and to me, that’s not all that interesting. (Now in the day where anyone can buy as many followers as they want, do we really think measuring someone’s worth by follower numbers alone is even a valid thing?)
    Regardless, this is another social media dust up that brings the fundamental question to the front- is twitter a personal engagement channel or a broadcast channel, or a mix of both? When people use it for broadcast, I think they do have to be aware that they may get some blowback if they are “caught” tweeting something that seems insensitive (think back to the Cole fashion campaign’riots in the Mideast? Must be our spring line! “) that’s what happens when you leave the tiller on the ship to someone else.

  17. It’s amazing to me to see the Kawasaki criticism given Everything he has done for the sector. He had a bad 15 minutes, and now we’re going to tar and feather him for life over two tweets? Tweets, which frankly, weren’t really over the top or attacking in nature compared to what he received? I just don’t get it.
    Kawasaki has given a lot to many people in this sector, and yet we see people eating their own. I wonder how many would have died to meet him in real life the day before, or next month. And how many of these critics have used AllTop badges or were amped to have Guy retweet one of their posts. Sad.

  18. Mitch, I don’t think the criticism was directed at people (and brands) who continued to do their usual activity on Twitter. The criticism was born out of the frustration at reading tweets like “Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start our day”. The criticism was just doled out in a generic way.

  19. I take issue with the fact that social media has or is becoming a glorified RSS feed for brands (personal and corporate alike). If your CEO doesn’t know how to turn off an automated feed please fire him/her.

  20. It’s obviously very subjective and something you can’t put a rule on. You’re probably less human if you tweet something unrelated right away, like Elaine buying Jujyfruits from the concession stand before heading to the hospital. But there can’t be a hard and fast rule on this.
    One of my favorite quotes on this topic comes from Dan Barreiro (sports radio talk-show host in Minneapolis), who tweeted in response to ESPN’s post Sandy Hook announcement that they were ceasing all tweets until the following Sunday: “Regarding Medal of Honor to ESPN for limiting tweets til Sun: Tweet, don’t tweet, matters not at all. Phony distinction of ‘perspective’.”

  21. It was helpful to hear you say, Twitter is Mass Media, and that if we do not allow ourselves to be individuals when tweeting, we are as banal as old mass media. (my paraphrase). I agree. I was not offended at the continuation of see me posts. I found it more offensive to see all sides of the political spectrum on Twitter, in mainstream media and alternative media whipping up shock and awe to cause more fear and more anger, in order to get more followers or better serve their political agenda. That needs to change.

  22. Perhaps, Geoff, many of these people saw Kawasaki’s “less than 1,500 followers” statement and took that as applying to them, and (naturally) got upset. Let’s turn your comment around – when someone becomes popular in any medium, it’s as much to do with the people that helped get that person to that spot as it is to do with the content that person is sharing, or known for.
    Where I saw a lot of people criticizing was in how it would have been even more useful for him to have contacted his intern team and asked them to start sharing Boston-related updates – aid, help numbers, advice, etc.
    Let’s not confuse criticism with hypocrisy.

  23. Wow! Great post Mitch. I agree completely that there is no “right” solution in this situation and that the best barometer everyone can use is their own inner voice. If it feels right, do it.
    Twitter is a global platform and your point about other tragedies happening around the world is well taken. If we were to stop promotional posts every time something bad happens, Twitter would become the online version of the emergency broadcast system. So the question becomes (as you rightfully pointed out), where do you draw the line? That line is going to be very personal. For someone living in Texas right now, the line might be drawn when the fertilizer factory blew up. But if you are in Taiwan (or Canada, or Maine for that matter), should you stop tweeting because of what happened in Texas? How close is too close? When is too soon?
    There simply is no hard and fast rule and it makes me sad that people are using Twitter as a platform to bully others into silence. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but when we begin trying to impose our opinions on others, we jeopardize the free and open dialogue that social media has become known for!
    – Kathleen Booth

  24. There have been, and will continue to be, examples of people reaching out to brands to hold automated tweets during tragedies and crisis. It’s not just related to the U.S. – there are examples elsewhere from the tsunami, earthquakes, national disasters (particularly from supporters of aid agencies and organizations).
    Perhaps people in North America miss this because they’re focused on the immediate NA surroundings as opposed to the bigger picture.
    With regards Kawasaki, many people didn’t have issue with the automation itself, but more the manner of the response he came out with, essentially saying anyone with less than 1,500 followers doesn’t have an opinion. Because, yes, that’s a wonderful metric to run with.

  25. Excellent conversation starter, as always, Mitch.
    Social brands are not marketing to us, they are asking to be our friends. When our friends are expressing sadness, and shock at a news event and a brand is asking “Who’s ready for the weekend?!” they appear insensitive and out of touch.
    It’s not hard to hit pause to put regular marketing on hold to share relevant information, and a wish for people to be safe and give blood. I would argue it even deepens the “friendship” with the consumer even more.
    I paused my Buffer overnight. I stopped tweeting informative links until the shock was over and a new day dawned. No big deal.
    More here:

  26. It seems like we need to be courageous enough to take chances to look insensitive. Does tweeting anything, even directly “offensive” to an event actually hurt anyone? No. Failing to stop the auto tweets may make him a jerk (I am not suggesting guy is a jerk however), but I heard Steve Jobs was a jerk while inventing the iPhone. I like that “jerk”! Thanks Greg gutfeld and the joy of hate for this perspective.

  27. Greg post Mitch. Your points, in my opinion, are completely valid.
    I’m always surprised by folks who are eager to get offended on behalf of others. And that is what was happening wasn’t it? I suspect non of the victims or their family members had the time or inclination to be on Twitter in the hours after the tragedy. So they couldn’t be offended by Tweets because they wouldn’t know they were there. So why do people who were not directly connected to the event, feel entitled to criticize others for their lack of empathy?
    The other valid point is that of putting the tragedy into perspective. By no means do I mean to diminish the tragedy of the loss of life at the marathon. I had friends there. I understand how horrible it is to have this great celebration shattered by terrorism. That said, we have a dangerous habit on being very nation-centric in our thinking about these tragedies. The loss of life in Boston, while tragic, pales in comparison to similar events that happen around the world every day.
    As you rightly point out, loss of life from similar acts occurs daily in other countries around the world. Do we have the same outrage at those incidents? Do we even notice? Why do we feel somehow entitled to be free of the same incidents that affect countries around the world?
    Life must go on, it’s the only choice we have. How long is appropriate to wait before moving on is debatable, but I think the only people who have a right to be offended are those who are experiencing the consequences of this tragedy.

  28. I saw the Kawasaki tweets in the hours after the Boston explosion, AFTER I told our team about the explosion and cautioned them to keep this in mind as they posted to social media outlets. We had a major rally the next day and were doing a radio interview that same afternoon. My point is, take care of your own stuff then if you have time, go and remind other people to check their auto tweets.
    Telling people to put a cork in it if they don’t have a gazillion followers is a dumb thing to do, no matter who you are. This is especially true in an emergency situation where people are on high alert.

  29. When people keep their scheduled tweets running through events such as these they simply show that they are not actively involved in the discussions – they want to talk but not listen. Actually, they are not there TO listen.
    And they must realize that not switching off their autotweets is the twitter version of not switching off your phone at a funeral – it just makes you look insensitive (and a jerk) – which, in truth, you may or may not be…

  30. I’d read that Crescenzo piece on Kawasaki; not being an avid follower of either, my take reflects much of what you wrote here and some of these comments. As others have pointed out – right and/or wrong – big figures make big targets. (Will admit to being somewhat offended at the suggestion one has to be a ‘star’ w/ mega following to have opinion on being social. MMV.)
    I connect more w/ what’s going on in my area than I do events around the world. Does that make me insensitive? Probably. As a US-based social user, it was upsetting to see brands and individuals robotically shill for themselves during this. When a brand – even based elsewhere – wants my biz, I’d prefer them to show a little restraint and compassion. I stopped my scheduled tweets the rest of the day, saved new things to share for later and (guilty) RTd one ‘how to tweet,’ a simple suggestion to check/pause auto-post updates.
    That said and to get at what you wrote – which very much aligns w/ what I’ve written – it’s this: it is personal, it is about me, what I want, what I like about social. Does one tweet or post I don’t like really mean I have to unfollow someone? No. There’s no way I’m going to agree w/ everything someone writes or says or shares. I don’t expect others to feel that way about me; and for that matter, they shouldn’t expect that from me nor think everything I do is ‘for them.’
    I write that, blog that, believe that – but at the same time Mitch I’m also guilty of 2nd guessing myself. I didn’t want to this use tragedy for content, even doubted if I should share other good, well-intentioned posts about it – all b/c of what others might think. In the end I stuck to “it’s MY social and if ‘they’ are offended, they can ignore/block/hate if they want to” and got back to being social, using Twitter my way – the only way I know how. FWIW.

  31. Great post Mitch – and definitely something that crossed my mind as all of this was unfolding.
    I think the major sticking point for me is the notion of automated tweets during an event like this (or, really, ever). I saw plenty of people tweeting about non-Boston related stuff, and that was okay by me. However, when I saw Canadian Tire continuing on their merry schedule of asking if I wanted to buy a new BBQ, or if i was spending my afternoon thinking about spring cleaning – it comes off as callous and robotic.
    It all comes down to knowing your own followers. You mention many horrific world events that happen on a daily basis… if a company understands it’s customers, they should have a general sense as to whether the time is right to send in a marketing message.
    Perfect example: RunnersWorld Magazine, who sent an automated, scheduled tweet – just as the events were unfolding in Boston. They quickly saw their mistake, and corrected it – but I wonder; if the Boston Marathon is the biggest celebration amongst their tribe – why are they using scheduled posts at all? Using real human beings, allowing them to use judgment, spontaneity and creativity will not only allow for an assessment of the gravity of a situation, but also make for a far more engaging account to follow on every other day of the year as well.

  32. Kim Kardashian has more followers than me, but that certainly doesn’t mean her judgement is any better or she is more adept at Twitter. But I assure you, she would likely make that same assumption powered by her ego.

  33. I asked all of our staff to refrain from client social media for 24 hours. Just to avoid everything. And then, they were free to continue. We live in many ages, including the Age of False Equivalency, the Age of Easy Outrage, and the Age of, um, Social Media. You, as a brand yourself, surely knows the consequences of what you put out there. Because you always filter what goes out through your brand. So what’s the difference? Every bit of media, every channel, is not just about content, but about context. If, say, the Facebook community were outraged by the death caused by the earthquake in Iran, you would not be posting a message about how much you love “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On.” Not at that moment and not on that channel. Because of the context.

  34. Assuming this quote about the Guy quote is accurate, I am hugely disappointed by his response. Even if this is his true internal reaction, he has been in business long enough to know better than to tweet something unkind like that.
    Good post Mitch.

  35. This is such a difficult and multisided issue. While I do feel that keeping the auto-tweets going can be a bit disrespectful in times of crisis, some people may take it a little too seriously, especially considering some of the mindless and stupid Twitter mistakes that other brands have made. For example, wasn’t it Celeb Boutique that tweeted something along the lines of, “We see that Aurora is trending! Clearly it’s about our Aurora dress.”? (Undoubtedly a mistake, but REALLY bad timing after the Aurora, Co. massacre.)
    But when you put into perspective all of the other world tragedies like the bombings and mass killings in the Middle East that a lot of people tend to ignore, it just makes everyone kind of look like an ass.
    Thanks for sharing this post. I think you really hit home for a lot of people.

  36. While I acknowledge that there are tragedies happening everywhere in the world, I disagree with the conclusion you draw from it. Life does go on… HERE, when bad things happen elsewhere in the world. But the bombs didn’t happen in Canada, or in Mexico, China or India. They happened in OUR Boston. It affected all Americans.
    Twitter, while global, is the product of Silicon Valley, and as such, it’s not unreasonable to assume that a US based news event of this caliber will become highly relevant to all of us.
    US. It’s an inclusive word. It refers the mind to our connectedness, to community. And while Guy and yourself, and any other social business managers may use it as a means to your personal financial ends, it still belongs in the consciousness to the realm of society. It is social. And because we share a national bond – because of the shocking nature of what took place, and the collective gasp that Americans drew as a result, I found business tweets and small-talk tweets to be insensitive and poorly timed. Indeed, I was not alone in this, as a number of people RTed social community leaders who were calling for brands to put a stop to their tweets. B/c business is an everyday event & tragedies are not, the immediate psychological response is to stop. We all felt it. You mentioned it too. We stop because people are dead. Our world is a bit more scary, and collectively, we all pondered the reality: we’re not safe anywhere, really. When EVERYONE is having that moment, and we’re sharing in a visceral way a memory burned into the collective conscience of America, business is an outlier, and an unwelcome one, because we are trying to care for one another at a level that is fundamentally deeper – and more essential – than making money.
    In light of this shared emotional reaction, and twitter users’ suddenly vibrant awareness of the connectivity of our lives through social media, I took the time to communicate my displeasure with tweets by people who were carrying on as though nothing of importance were taking place. In today’s hyper individualistic culture, you might wonder why I felt empowered to do so – it’s because twitter facilitates relationships. We are relational creatures, and a big part of relationship is communication. If I don’t say what I am thinking, no one will know. I wanted to give the people I follow, who follow me, an opportunity to respond to that relationship. They could either dismiss me or consider my view and respectfully put their business on hold. I communicated this way with journalists, Tech Crunch’s account, and with a musician. The glib mockery I received from one person told me everything I needed to know, so I unfollowed him. The non-responsive accounts I endured with annoyance.
    So yes, life goes on, but in future moments like this – they seem to come once or twice in a decade – will you assert your own will and desire to carry on, or be mindful of others in a rare moment of collective emotional trauma? Some people accept that they are being insensitive and continue on. You only get one chance to respond, so which will yours be next time?

  37. To all those affected directly and indirectly by these blasts in Boston and explosions I wish to express my profound sentiments.
    What an interesting debate!
    Many great comments here.
    Why does it take something bad to occur to make us stop and reflect upon behavior in social media?
    The old saying “One for all and all for one”? Does humanity live by it at all? Unfortunately not on our planet. A one man’s tragedy should be everyone’s tragedy and a groups tragedy should be of concern to each and every person. Is it like this? Do we really care even about our own neighbours? How many have the time to greet or just send a caring smile to our neighbour(s)?
    It is physically impossible for an individual to greet every passing soul, but if we all did a bit more real life connecting with real people around us we might have not needed social medias to begin with and if one or more existed it would have been more like a brotherhood media than a competition zone for the egos.
    I am completely unrelated to the USA, but i am empathic with the effect the tragedies there and everywhere else on this planet take place. Why do we keep having tragedies? Why are there people killing people? Greed?! Power ?! Or just plain insanity?
    I read somewhere on FB this quote “If we have money to kill them, we certainly have money to help them”! Sorry for not remembering who said that, but it stayed in my mind because it is true.
    Someone or some group has an agenda and it is evil. This is the main problem.
    To stop businesses running in other places is impossible and i agree with someones statement in the comments that if bombs blasting anywhere stopped businesses then it would be suiting the perpetrators agenda even more, so we should not allow this to happen.
    We have these lives where we can afford to pay for the latest mobiles, sat in expensive couches wearing amazingly expensive clothes, fly on business, have time to socialize through the internet and be connected to so many similarly able to afford this type of life people. This is great when what we achieved and have contributes to our communities, not just ourselves. But the biggest tragedy of all is not only the evil actions like blasts that decimate lives of innocent people, but the fact that we aren’t engaged on a personal level to help around enough. At least the big majority isn’t. Some have millions in possesions while millions dont even have any posessions, besides what they wear to cover their private body parts. The lack of water (!) in so many places where people die from thirst..( they dont even know what a mobile is or how to read), this is our biggest failure to our own human fellows born in conditions that could certainly be improved with an effort from each and one of us. If only Our knowledge led by our hearts was used in a better way, we could empower and transform society and no man-made tragedies would ever need to exist. Man learnt how to seed clouds but instead of using that mainly to water crops it is used to control the weather and force into financial dependency others. It is a new type of war. More difficult to fight for it’s “invisibility”.
    Telling others what to speak and when to do what is a recipe for disaster unless an advice was solicited.
    I just joined Tweeter a week or so ago, but only had time to start learning about it and how to use it yesterday and through this article and comments I learned a lot already. Thank you
    For certain, if we would close our accounts due to dissapointments with others, it would be the equivalent to giving up on socialising with real people.
    The power that tweeting brings to us all should be used to make a better world for everyone and this debate is a step out of many, certainly an evolutionary process in the way social media affects us. We can all reach out to each other so much faster using social media, our honesty and empathy in general should dictate the rules;
    as far as “what others think about me or what I do” question? Well, unfortunately, it is impossible to please everyone exactly because evil lurks around disguised as an angel since the beginning of time, but is it that impossible to change this given that we are not the caveman anymore? At least by trying and swaping the balance between evil and good
    Forgive me if I went off topic a bit, it must be the emotions of so many tragedies everywhere. Thats why we got Tweeter and blogs and FB to share and connect ,
    and just … “Imagine”- J. Lennon
    Thank you
    Bel Riquelme

  38. I am also a twitter virgin & only lost my twitter virginity a few days ago so still trying to get my head around it. However I have come across some interesting tweets posted by Mitch & find them really useful. This article is particularly interesting as it shows the connection pple make with social media & real everyday living. As a runner myself I strongly sympathise & empathise with those who unfortunately lost their lives as a result of certain murderers & barbarians who seemingly feel they have the almighty decision to take human lives because of a cause they believe in! Very shameful of the human race when we act like jungle animals as many seem to do these days! Anyhow that’s besides the point before I get all angry & emotional & start having these same animal reactions! On the other hand why should life stop for the sake of these murderers? Like someone said in their tweet, we don’t attend every funeral but the ones that affect us & even some of those that affect us, we don’t attend if they are not directly close to us. Paying tributes is fantastic but should life stop as a result. As Mitch said he opened the window & pple were still laughing, joking, having coffee etc. should coca cola close its factory & give everyone a day off, every time there’s a tragedy? Well if that happened and they lost millions from lack of production, what about the millions of lives that will be affected by the loss will that not be tragic? Asking pple to stop tweeting on the day is like one of the tweets said making the perpetrators feel they’ve won as I’m sure is their objective! We must pay our tributes but not stop living how many of those who “sensitively” stopped tweeting will attend the funeral of those who passed away or visit their family? Yes if you feel as a mark of respect you will prefer to stop your tweeter feed, please don’t expect it of all. Life must & should go on. Death I s an expectation for all, just the time, place or circumstances are different.

  39. I love social media and I love and respect people BUT I don’t see how my online behaviour or anyone’s for that matter is a direct correlation to their feelings toward a tragedy.
    I wanted to see tweets that weren’t about Boston because I didn’t want to be consumed by it BUT in no way does that mean my heart didn’t hurt for the victims and their families.
    Our society is addicted to news around tragedies and addicted to telling people how they should behalf. I say tweet what you want when you want to, be kind and understand that we are all different people and deal with things in our own ways and it’s not for any of us to judge.
    This is just my opinion – do as you wish.

  40. Great post, Mitch.
    For the record, I certainly don’t have an axe to grind with Kawasaki. I barely know who he is. I mean, I know he was one of the original social media gurus, and is wildly popular, but I’ve never read his books or seen him speak.
    And to me, the debate over whether to stop tweeting during a national crisis was always secondary to his response to criticism of it.
    I think it’s a fair debate to talk about whether to suspend tweets, etc., during a crisis. This was made very clear in the days AFTER the Boston tragedy, when we had an explosion in Texas, an earthquake in China, and about a dozen other events around the world that claimed more lives than were lost in Boston. If you’re a citizen of the world, and you stop tweeting or using social media whenever there is a tragedy, you’re not going to using social media too much.
    THAT is a healthy and vigorous debate, and worth having.
    My column on was more geared towards Kawasaki’s unbelievable response to criticism: “loving how people with fewer than 1500 followers are telling me how to tweet.” For a guy who makes his living hawking books on how to “enchant” people, it was incredibly stupid and insensitive and foolish.
    As someone on this thread mentioned, Kim Kardashian has more followers than Kawasaki . . . does that mean I should take advice from her?
    And it all could have been solved with a simple apology. Kawasaki could have said, “Well, that was stupid. I have a lot to learn, just like anybody else, from people with 1 follower and people with 2 million followers.”
    But Guy Kawasaki would never apologize, and there you have it.
    So while I didn’t write the column because I had an axe to grind with him, I guess I do now. I think he’s a terrific phony and a false prophet, and I feel sorry for all the people who bought into him.

Comments are closed.