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In the past few weeks, there have been several gaffs on social media sites that have caused huge uproars. People and businesses are not thinking before they post.  Here are just a few examples:

Kenneth Cole posted this tweet that caused a stir.   “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at ….”  Many people interpreted the comment as a reference to Arab Spring, the revolutionary uprisings that are occurring in the Middle East.

Nikon made a huge error recently on their Facebook page.  They posted a statement saying  a photographer is only as good as his equipment. Then they asked which Nikon lens people use.  It’s pretty obvious the intent was to have their followers post positive comments.  The tables turned though and their fans replied that there is more to photography than equipment.   Previously, an average Facebook comment would result in a few hundred comments and likes for them (of the 1.2 million fans they have).  This particular post drew over 4500 comments and almost all were negative.   Nikon did issue a weak apology by saying “it wasn’t their aim” to insult or upset anyone.  The apology wasn’t well received.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now about the HUGE error Spike Lee made by retweeting to his 240,000 followers a home address that he thought belonged to George Zimmerman, the man accused of killing Trayvon Martin.  In fact, the address belongs to an elderly couple that is no way connected to George Zimmerman.  Another George Zimmerman formerly owned the home.   The elderly couple has been living in fear ever since Spike sent out the tweet.  He did finally apologize via Twitter and ask for civility.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online version has a PolitiFact  article about a political operative from one party sending a tweet that appeared as though he was retweeting something from another party but in  fact, he made it up to fabricate a point.

Here are a few suggestions to avoid putting yourself in these predicaments:

1.  Know the “terms of service” that you agreed to for the various social media sites.  It is against Twitter’s terms of service to post an address or telephone number in a tweet.  It is also against their policy ”to in any way use the Services to send altered, deceptive or false source-identifying information.”

2.  Think and pause before you post an update or comment.  Think…pause…type (or not).  Count to five between those steps and you may save yourself some embarrassment.

3.  Think about the emotions you are feeling or that you will cause others to feel before you post.  Be aware of the hot-button issues and topics . Think and pause before you post.  See item above

4.  Be careful of who you allow to post your updates.  This tip is advice for companies or organizations that have someone specifically delegated to be their “voice” on social media.  Make sure they understand your company, fans and what they really do.

Remember, people love to forward content. It can go viral in just a matter of minutes so be prepared to react if necessary.

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