Not-so-Secret Service: Lack of Twitter Rules Can Mean Embarrassment

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When it comes to shaky approaches to using social media to communicate with clients, employees, friends or another valuable audience, even presumably tech-savvy governmental agencies aren't immune to embarrassing gaffes. An unsanctioned and inappropriate remark on the Secret Service's primary Twitter account got a government worker in some hot water, and it may have potentially opened up a political can of worms.


As reported by NPR, a Secret Service employee with access to the agency's official account accidentally posted candid musings there, rather than to the employee's own personal account. Those musings, which indicated that the employee had to reluctantly monitor Fox News "blathering," are sure to have caused the agency some embarrassment due to an obvious lack of professionalism. The inappropriate tweet may also appear to indicate that Fox gets more or special attention that other news outlets don't get. The agency quickly apologized for the incident and denied that Fox has been singled out.


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Eight Tips for Creating a Social Media Policy

A list of points that you should consider while crafting your company's social media policy.

While I have no inside knowledge when it comes to how the Secret Service handles social media engagement, I wonder if a lack of clear, explicit social media policy might have contributed to the employee's oversight. Were there rules in place for using Twitter for personal reasons during work time? Did the agency provide guidance on who was ultimately responsible for using Twitter or other social tools in an official capacity? Given that the reprimand for the employee at this point consists of having official account access revoked, it may be that the absence of rules governing engagement is the only thing that saved that employee from earning walking papers.


Everybody makes mistakes, but well-crafted rules and guidelines can minimize them. To any business or organization struggling to find a way to partake of the benefits of social networking tools without being subject to easily avoidable risks, I recommend these resources:

  • Corporate Twitter Account Policy - Your employees are already tweeting about work and your company. This sample policy will help you guide them toward presenting themselves and your firm in a positive light on the popular social network.
  • Colorado State University Twitter Best Practices - These guidelines, intended to help Twitter users conduct their online activities in a successful and productive manner, cover rules for creating a profile user name, avatar/background images, engaging with followers, maintaining accounts and profile promotion.
  • "All a Twitter" Excerpt - This chapter explores how you can run and promote your business with Twitter. It can help you master Twitter etiquette and avoid beginner mistakes.
  • Social Media Policy and Procedures Template - This editable template contains highlights to help you customize it to your firm's needs for a simple, common-sense policy governing employees' social media presence.