A Retweet Changed How I Use Twitter

online business

online businessIt took me a few weeks to finally write this blog post and I held off on blogging about it because I didn’t want it to contain angst or snark.  I wanted it to have a few really great lessons and a-ha moments based on what I experienced.  Some people may just sweep a story like this under the rug and pretend that it never happened (or never happens ever) but the truth of the matter is, people are going to do things and say things that you may not particularly enjoy and it is up to you to decide how you want to handle it.  I hope this story allows you to see that mistakes will happen regardless of how social media proficient you are.

The Backstory

Let me back up a wee bit to one gorgeous, sunny afternoon a few weeks ago.  I was walking down the road, enjoying the warmth and the nature and all of the goodness that was surrounding me, and decided to pull out my iPhone to check my Twitter feed.  I read through the Tweets, laughing in response to some of the replies from friends when suddenly, I was punched in the gut.  Hard.

A colleague of mine, from the same city I live in, retweeted one of my Tweets and added “puke” to the front of my Tweet.  That was it, just a simple “puke” but the idea that my Tweet was vomit inducing was enough to stop me dead in my tracks.  I replied to the person with a bit of humor and the response I received was even more gut punching than the first one.  This person, that I had never met in person, told me that my over the top social media nonsense was what had induced this vomiting fit.

After receiving those Tweets, I was admittedly a bit shocked and sad and embarrassed and all sorts of emotions, as I had just been called out in a room full of my peers (Twitter) for social media douchebaggery.  What made a bad scenario even worse was seeing other colleagues, also based out of the same city I live in, partake in the conversation and poke fun at me.  Those extra Tweets weren’t directed right at me but I’m savvy enough on ye olde Twitter to find the related conversations.

The context of my Tweet had been changed.  The wording was changed, the URL had been removed and the retweet now left me standing there with my pants down (well, not really with my pants down but it was every bit as scary as it would be had I been standing in a crowd with my pants down). However, given some time to reflect on the entire situation, this person was partially justified.  Perhaps it would have been better for that individual to address it privately but either way, it changed my social media course.

Testing Grounds

You see, I’m a HUGE advocate of using social media for your business.  It’s what I do for my clients, it is what I do for myself and I am always talking about it, teaching it or yelling from the rooftops about how important it is.  However, you can’t speak on the subject and teach other people about the subject if you aren’t constantly testing the tool.  So, I test.  A lot.

Some people may argue that using my own Twitter account to test out various social media “tactics” is social media suicide and I suppose it is in a way.  I fully understand that by testing out different tweets, timing of tweets, structure of tweets, etc., I may risk losing a follower or two.  However, that it is the price I am willing to pay to fully understand the tool that I am using and touting.  I can’t perform the service for my clients without having tried the tactics that they are going to ask me to implement for them.

Everything I do in business is an experiment.  I don’t walk the “safe” line but rather push the boundaries a bit.  I see what people enjoy and don’t enjoy and, as you can see in the backstory above, people DO tell me.  Loud and clear.  However, I need to realize that unless people know what it is I am doing, I may cause people to disengage.

I also think that this is the case with many entrepreneurs.  By nature, we are all experimenting with things as there is no giant book of golden rules that we are supposed to follow.  As long as we are standing in a place of being authentic and sharing our message in the best way we know how, we are headed in the right direction and we are bound to make mistakes along the way.

What I Did Wrong on Twitter

At this point in my post, you might be wondering to yourself, “What did you do wrong?” and I will tell you what I think happened.

At that time, I wasn’t writing all of my Tweets live.  I know, I know – there are social media purists out there who will fall on the floor after reading that.  However, all of my more personal and in the moment Tweets, my @ replies, my DMs and my retweets are written by me and in the exact moment the message is Tweeted.  However, I do use Hootsuite to preschedule a few Tweets where I am sharing dated / timely information or sending out tips / recommendations that I want to make but don’t want to send them all at once, at 11pm at night.

Before I received the Tweet, the one that punched me in the gut, I had prescheduled some Tweets that pointed back to my old blog content.  It was still relevant information and I figured that since I had received a lot of new followers since that content was written, they might benefit from reading the old material.  None of the URLs I was linking to were salesy or required someone to have to purchase anything — it was just to blog posts that I had written that shared info on different topics.

One of those blog posts that I linked to was a response to a question I received from Scott Annan who asked, “I see you giving so much of yourself online, for free, how do you do it?”  The post explained why I did it and how and explained that I love answering questions and providing people with solutions, yada yada yada… So, my Tweet that day quoted one line from that post.  However, it wasn’t necessarily the best line to use from the post or summarize the context of the post well.

My mistake was assuming that people, including the retweeter of my Tweet, would take the time to read the post.

I realized, in that moment, that a Tweet needed to stand on its own without people needing to click through the link and if the Tweet could be taken out of context, it needed to be edited to suit Twitter’s medium.  Proof that not all content is acceptable for each medium.

What I’ve Changed Since Then

Since that fateful day, I’ve since taken much more time when crafting my in the moment Tweets and I no longer pre-schedule Tweets.  The day that I received that eye-opening Tweet, I went into Hootsuite and deleted everything (hours and hours of work) and decided that from then on, I needed to be clearer with my messages and ensure that the Tweet stood on its own leaving zero room for misinterpretation.  I wanted to ensure that all of my future Tweet context didn’t need to be gathered through the link that I was attaching but was rather obvious, right there in the 140 characters allotted.

The entire situation gave me time to pause and reflect on how I was using the tool and what role it played for me in the bigger picture.  Twitter, much like other social media tools, is just that — a tool.  It is up to us to figure out how we should be individually using it to suit our life / business purpose.  However, we need to be mindful of the messages we are sending and ensure that it is of great value and benefit to those listening to us.

A Note to the Retweeter

If you do get a chance to read this, I want to apologize to you.  There are times in my business, and in my life, where I try something out and it doesn’t go the way I envisioned it to.  There are times when my message on the Internet doesn’t line up with who I am as a human being – regardless of how hard I try to ensure that it does.  140 characters can sometimes be a difficult use of space for spreading messages and sharing free content and as much as I try to please everyone, I do end up failing at times.

I am a natural born experimenter and one of my favorite questions to ask is, “Why?”  I like to know how things work and I like to understand the pros and cons to doing things a certain way.  This means that I am going to naturally try something that doesn’t work and I’m going to do things in a way that isn’t appealing to the masses.  However, I am doing my best.  It’s all that any of us can do — do our best and hope that what we are doing helps someone, resonates with someone and reaches the intended audience.

Thank you for pushing me to take pause and really evaluate my own use of the tool.  I wish it had come in a different format that wasn’t as embarrassing as it was, but at the end of the day, I learned the lesson and that is all that matters.


  • Cormac Heron says:

    You could always have ignored it 😉

  • David Hunter says:

    Love this >> Proof that not all content is acceptable for each medium
    Hate this >> If you do get a chance to read this, I want to apologize to you.  

    Apologies are not necessary for your own thoughts – no matter whcih medium it is.
    This person needs to be apologizing to you!
    Attaching a single word like that, out of context, and without any other banter is thoughtless, rude and egocentric.

  • Erin – 

    Thanks so much for this post. I found out the hard way that tweets are easily (though unfairly) taken out of context, and it cost me my job.

    I’m right there with you – there is no “rule book” and people, especially those outside the medium don’t understand that. 

    I too beta test if you will on my personal accounts and in general have felt the community has been forgiving. I am sorry you had this experience and hope that that person takes pause, as you did. Words matter.


  • Jo says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this –  I think its such a fine line and wonder if we need to accept that you can’t always please everyone.. I’ve really been working on this one lately! However it hurts to have such a public rebuff of your tweet.

    I guess its also great to have a reminder that you really are putting yourself out there with social media in a way we havne’t before – you make yourself a bit vulnerable – and when that comes back to bite you it hurts!

    Thanks for sharing, I’ve certainly taken on learning from your experience!

  • Alice says:

    Hi Erin,
    You came to mind today as I am doing renos to my website.. your loving and proud dad was in my biz one day braaaging!!! So, wanted to check out what you’ve been up to etc and happened upon this article. Thats how it is.. we speak our minds, experiment, discover, re-organize and there is never any shame. Furthermore, what an excellent and respectful way to articulate yourself. Good for you Erin.. keep running with passion and authenticity!
    ALICE!!! 😀

  • Seriously, I think the immature person who re-tweeted that way is the one who needs to apologize. Honestly. Though your ability to learn from these things is amazing ! Great points you made here.

  • Great post, Erin. I think it’s very transparent of you to share this painful experience, and to show how you turned it into a learning opportunity.  It seems there isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t see some large company pull a *FAIL* using social media, so I think it’s helpful that you’ve had this experience to build off of. 

  • Wayne Hendry says:

    Hi Erin,

    You are a freak and I mean that in the good sense. You are one of those rare people whose unique insights and push-the-envelope approach can and does have enormous impact. If you do not believe me check out this link:

    Keep up the important work that you are doing!


  • Jenny says:

    The puke comment was unacceptable. Your attempt to justify it is admirable. But your first instinct (punched in the gut) was right. This person should be ashamed. You’re doing a great job — keep it up!

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