Tweets: Viral With The Click of the Retweet Button

By: Lauren Manecke

Photo courtesy to: Jon Gosier via Flickr

Photo courtesy to: Jon Gosier via Flickr

Many of us, including celebrities and news organizations, have taken to social media to express our thoughts, spread news quickly or ask polls. But what happens when a prominent person or source tweets something wrong? It goes viral.

This past week, The New England Patriots found this out the hard way when they tried to celebrate having one million followers on Twitter. By celebrating, they reached out to their twitter followers and told them they would thank them with a custom digital New England Patriots jersey. The jersey was a photo of the back of a Patriots jersey, and instead of having a players name, they put the fan’s Twitter handle (one’s name on twitter).

Having an automated reply to those who retweeted their tweet, the Patriots did not think through the type of Twitter handles some people have. A Twitter user with the name @IHateN****ss retweeted the tweet, therefore the Patriots responded by putting that name on the back of the jersey along with a tweet saying, “@IHATEN****SS Thanks for helping us become the first NFL team with 1 million followers! #1MillionPatriots.”

The tweet was on the Patriots account for about an hour until it got enough attention that someone noticed it and removed it. They sent an apology tweet out shortly after, but the point is, it was still tweeted and circulated the internet. The difference between a “plain Jane” account with around only 300 followers and a verified account with over a million, such as the Patriots, is that it gets noticed faster. Not only does this make the football team look bad for tweeting this, even though it was an accident, it puts the person with the racial slur account in the spotlight as well. 

Unfortunately, incidents like this happen more often than not, though they are not as extreme as the one I just mentioned. In November 2012, Oprah Winfrey wanted to tell people that the new Microsoft Surface Tablet was one of her favorite things so she tweeted, “Gotta say love that SURFACE! Have bought 12 already for Christmas gifts. #FavoriteThings”. The only problem? She tweeted this off of her iPad.

The internet has a growing presence and all eyes are on celebrities and news sources, especially with sites like Twitter. With how often people are checking their phones to see what is happening around them, things get noticed faster than ever. People need to be aware of what they tweet because their followers are interested in what they have to say, whether it is for gossip, news related information or to catch mistakes to make them look bad.

Just because someone is in the spotlight, do you think it is okay to point out their flaws like this? What do you think could have been done to stop the New England Patriots’ tweet? Have you ever noticed a tweet like this? If so, what did you do? Do you think these kinds of tweets get blown out of proportion?


9 responses to “Tweets: Viral With The Click of the Retweet Button

  1. Wow, I didn’t hear about this, which I guess answers the question as to whether I’ve ever noticed a tweet like this. But nevertheless, Twitter is a popular news site and you have to know that whatever you tweet is there for the world and if it does get blown out of proportion you can’t really blame anyone for it, although the Oprah instance is actually kind of funny. I don’t think it’s OK necessarily to point out someone’s flaws just because they’re in the spotlight, but in these instances I feel like they were mostly the result of poor foresight.

  2. I think that large organizations like this have an obligation to double check their social media pages so this kind of stuff doesn’t happen. I think the best way to prevent this kind of thing is to get multiple opinions/thoughts on it. That way someone is more likely to catch a mistake before it’s presented to millions of people. I’ve never noticed a tweet like this, but these kinds of stories are all over the news lately.

  3. I think it gets tricky once account users who have millions of followers get involved. While I don’t think that’s an excuse for the Patriots to slip up and tweet to an account with a racial slur, I do think that mistakes happen, and unfortunately for them, people notice. I work on the social media team at BHG, and we have several editors who have access to the account–and all it takes is a good team of people to pay attention to what they’re doing and ensure that they’re promoting the right things. For the Patriots, I think it was a lack of foresight and attention to detail. For Oprah, I think it’s just irony.

  4. I think what the Patriots were lacking here is a good team of social media advisers and editors, because if they had that, this would have never happened. Teams like these think of every scenario, and make sure their image is 100% protected via social media. It is different for people like us, who have little followers, because there are not too many eyes on us, waiting for us to mess up so they can blow it out of proportion.

  5. I agree with Erin’s answer here. Mistakes happen, and it’s easier for an account with one million followers to get noticed, as opposed to a less popular one. I’m sure I’ve flubbed a few tweets (though, not as seriously). But because I’m a college student with only 200ish followers, my mistakes aren’t as publicized. I think the best thing the Patriots–and any major organization with a social media presence–can do is more closely monitor what is being posted on their accounts.
    In Oprah’s case, that was just carelessness.

  6. I agree with what you all have said. Unfortunately for celebrities and those with a lot of followers, their tweets get noticed faster rather than if we were to tweet the same thing. Do you think there should be a separate group of people that check a tweet before it goes out (just like editing for a print company) or do you think that is a waste of time?

  7. I think such big social media influencers need to be cautious. Not everyone is perfect, so I’m sure that there will be flubs here and there. I think this example is one of them, but I also think that things like automatic replies need to be thought over. There are so many inappropriate Twitter handles, so they should have thought about that before using automatic replies. I think bigger companies and followings just need to keep a better eye on what’s going on and leave control in their hands, not the hands of a computer.

  8. I don’t necessarily think it is pointing out their flaws, I think it is a way to notice simple mistakes and learn from them. I’m sure the Patriots will be extra careful on their Twitter from now on and Oprah’s people will be watching what she does very carefully. I think it just another form of common everyday mistakes that fortunately can be edited and changed. It is something companies can learn and grow from.

  9. I just laughed outloud because of the Oprah story. Ahhhh, the joys of product placement and advertising. The vast abyss of social media needs to be carefully monitored by PR professionals. While breaking news can spread like wildfire (in often good circumstances to keep the public aware,) it can also go viral for negative reasons. Ahem, Kim Kardashian’s “break the internet” campaign. The moral of the story: have someone that’s not an unexperienced intern hold the passwords.

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