Twitter: A Cautionary Tale for Ambitious Executives

With the dismissal of SBS Sports Presenter and Journalist Scott McIntyre in April 2015 over a series of controversial tweets regarding ANZAC Day veterans and its traditions, we are reminded, in a very sobering way, of the perils of social media and, how contextualising opinion, whether welcomed or repugnant, is crucial to being understood.

When it comes to Twitter, I have often told clients and colleagues that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

The benefits of Twitter are self-explanatory.  The pitfalls are many. For executives who are interested in an upward career projectory, my advice is to give Twitter a wide berth for the following reasons –

Firstly, never underestimate the power of ‘intrigue’.  Sharing constant minutiae, no matter how funny you think your observations are, shows a lack of personal restraint, which suggests that you may not be leadership material.  No one wants to sit at a dinner party next to someone who won’t stop talking pedestrian – why would this be different in a virtual space?

Secondly, twittering may give the impression that you’re not very busy. Shouldn’t you be engaged in more pressing matters instead of lower order commentary?

Most importantly, and the McIntyre case is a solid example, that no man living, can give context to his comments in 140 characters.  Also, no situation, or human being, should ever be confined, or defined, by a selection of soundbites, particularly on subjects that you’re not a direct witness to. Doing so, may show a profound lack of respect for persons, and truth.

What punctuates the McIntyre fall so tragically is that he was no novice – he was an established and educated, media professional.  This leads me to my final point, which is demonstrating good judgement. Every successful, and well-respected executive that I have ever worked with, all share a common thread – they possessed good judgement.

Twitter is not a platform to exercise good judgement. Period.

Remember, there is no such thing as a throw away line when communicating in real time, in the public sphere.

WordSmith Jo

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