The longer social media exists, the more useful it becomes as a tool. New services are created, the number of users increases, niche markets evolve, and user voices develop. One thing that many users did not anticipate is that the age of their social media profiles—and how often they use them—could be turned against them. At some point or another, we’ve been told that once something is on the internet, it is there forever—but others are learning that lesson the hard way, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who recently stated she had never met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, only for a photo of the two together to quickly spread like wildfire across the internet.
As many tweeters out there have probably seen, there is a new and evolving trend on Twitter that does anything but leave the past behind: retweeting old content when it becomes relevant again, often shining a less-than-positive light on the original user. This has been a recurring theme when discussing the travel and golf habits of President Trump, who on several occasions during Barack Obama’s presidency tweeted criticisms about Obama’s travel and golf habits. It has also reared its head for more bizarre situations—such as Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s tweets in 2010 about the Dippin’ Dots brand.
As Twitter re-emerges as a prominent social media platform—particularly in American politics—so too has the threat of your very public past coming back to haunt you. While we can’t go back in time to prevent a meeting or stop you from expressing your feelings about the ice cream of the future, we’ve put together a few tips to mitigate the threat of a blast from the past retweet:
- Stay on message. Mistakes are more prone to happen when you stray from your original plan, and that includes your day-to-day communication online. Organizations should consider developing content calendars or an approval process for generating new content, and being cognizant of past posts when rolling out a new agenda or change in policy.
- Proceed with caution on tweet threads. Twitter was designed for short and sweet messages, but sometimes 140 characters is just not enough. When proceeding with a tweet thread (a succession of tweets in which you are replying to yourself, creating a chain of tweets), make sure that tweets cannot be taken out of context in the future casting you or your organization in a poor light.
- Consider spring cleaning. Hindsight is always 20/20. If you are not bound by any records laws, take the time to go through your social media accounts and decide if you should delete those late-night tweets from college. Organizations can do this to further curate their brand and delete any posts that don’t fit with its current or future aesthetic.
- Make your account private. If you have a personal and an official account, consider adjusting your privacy setting for your personal account so it doesn’t detract from your professional account or aesthetic. While the tweet posted on yours or your organization’s official page might have undergone a lengthy approval process, those same processes likely didn’t exist when you started your personal account in 2009.