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July 23, 2010
Knee-Jerk Responses a Social Media Hazard
Tom Murphy warns on his Murphy's Law blog of a hazard of social media that can keep PR people busier than they'd like to be -- knee-jerk responses to corporate posts or events in the news that may involve your organization. Call it a kind of online tripping hazard. 

Murphy lists recent hair-trigger events involving Shirley Sherrod, late of the Agriculture Department, Old spice and Uniball as examples. You may know of others and, if they've involved your organization, you have our sympathy.

He also calls it "whiplash analysis." Because a keyboard's handy, some people use theirs to vent. Fire now, apologize later, maybe.

"In all three cases (above)," commentators didn't let analysis or even the facts get in the way of a good rant. Instead they took partial information and just jumped right in to give their 'valued' opinions," Murphy writes. "You see this increasingly on Twitter, with people erupting about some issue or other, only to tweet later that they were mistaken or it wasn't true -- and of course that's the 2% that actually bother to correct it."

Because social media can have a trip wire, does that mean you shouldn't be on it? Certainly not. But it's worth giving some thought to how a given post might be interpreted on the fly, and try to head off hazardous possibilities. Accidents can happen, but they can also be prevented. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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