Digital Dilemmas: How to clean up after a damaging tweet

Your business Twitter feed has been polluted, so what's your response?

What do you do when your company Twitter feed has been compromised and tweets that would make your mother blush have been sent out in your name?'s Natasha Lomas deconstructs another Digital Dilemma.

There's no sweeping it under the carpet. Your Twitter feed has unleashed something that you'd give your eye teeth to get back. There was something crude, rude or downright offensive involved. Whatever it was, it feels like the digital equivalent of stripping off and blowing raspberries at your best customers.

Perhaps your Twitter account was hacked, or perhaps you naively handed the password to the intern who thought it would be a good idea to promote your latest product by including an unrelated but topical hashtag - such as a natural disaster emergency - thereby piggybacking your company's wares on other people's tragedy and misery.

The details are not important - the fact remains that whatever was said was damaging and has brought your entire marketing department out in rashes and cold sweats.

Regain control of the feed
Certainly, you can delete the offending tweet or tweets, and that's pretty much the first thing you should do once you regain control of the Twitter helm. But that doesn't mean you've seen the back of the offending items.

Twitter: How to clean up after an inappropriate tweet

Is an inappropriate tweet making you want to bury your head in the sand?
(Photo credit: Dominik Schwind via under the following Creative Commons licence)

You can be sure you are experiencing the calm before the storm because it's highly likely that plenty of your customers, potential customers and rivals have already seen one of the rogue tweets, several will have screengrabbed it and are probably in the process of retweeting it, emailing it to their buddies and possibly even composing blogs about it. If you're a big brand it's not inconceivable that your Twitter blunder could end up making the Nine O'Clock News.

So how should you respond? And what can you do to minimise the damage?

First, stay calm. If your Twitter account was hacked into - and even if one of your own employees was responsible for the offending tweets - make sure you change the password. One inappropriate tweet or series of tweets is bad enough, but if the Twitter blunderbuss strikes twice you really will have cause for embarrassment.

Think of it not as locking the stable door after the horse has bolted but rather making sure the rest of your prize stallions can't get out and start running amok too.

It may be wise to copy or take a screengrab of the offending tweets before deleting them - so you have a record of what was said in your company's name. If there's even a whiff of libellous potential, get the company lawyer on the phone.

Update your followers
Once you've returned your Twitter feed to a state of apparent normality, you need to compose a tweet informing your followers of what has happened - specifically that the previous tweets were not intended and were tweeted in error.

Keep it light on details - if your account was hacked it's worth saying so but if one of your interns or employees was responsible for the Twitter blunder then you need to make sure...