Love him or loathe him, Donald Trump is certainly a man who provides journalists with plenty of material. It seems that a day rarely goes by that the American billionaire turned Republican Party front-runner doesn’t do or say something that gets him in the news and sends social media into overdrive.
Yesterday was no exception, when he tweeted something that, even by his standards, was not his finest hour:
There’s an episode of The Simpsons where, after a typically dimwitted and inaccurate comment from Homer, we hear Lisa’s brain reassure her “I know, I heard it too…but here’s some music”, and I think that’s really the only way you can immediately react to something like this. Even after all the world news that’s come out of the city in the last couple of months, does a man who could feasibly be president of the most powerful nation on the planet by the end of this year really think that Paris is in Germany?
Well, having read it several times, I don’t actually think so. I think what Trump’s tried to do is refer to two different events within Twitter’s often tricky 140-character limit for tweets, and come out with something that’s a bit garbled and confusing. The result is that this particular tweet is a poor and easily misunderstood piece of communication.
Sadly for Trump, politicians don’t gain a reputation based on what they meant to say, but on what they did say and how it is interpreted. I’m quite sure George W. Bush didn’t mean to say that he’d been “misunderestimated” in 2000, and that former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls didn’t mean to tweet his own name in 2011. These things happened though, and years of ribbing have since followed for both men.
But it’s not just politicians that can make a fool of themselves with what they say and do; businesses are prone to it too. Take this tweet from supermarket giant Tesco from almost three years ago to the day:
Time to hit the hay! We'll see you again at 8am for more #TescoTweets
— Tesco (@Tesco) January 9, 2013
Nothing obviously wrong with that, until you consider that in early 2013, Tesco was in the thick of the horsemeat scandal. Tesco argued that the tweet was scheduled long before the news broke, but when major news happens, it’s wise for businesses to review their published and scheduled content to make sure there’s nothing that might add further fuel to the fire.
In fact, while big businesses and politicians may have their online slip-ups magnified, Lancashire beautician Gemma Worrall showed in 2014 that it’s possible for ordinary folk to go viral with outbursts of foolishness, with her infamous Barraco Barner tweet. It’s hard to know where to start on picking this one apart, but Ms. Worrall did later concede that she was “no good with politics”.
The morale of the story is to think before you tweet, or add any content to the internet. The problem is that we all know what we’re trying say in our heads, but the way it’s interpreted by someone else could be quite different. Whenever possible, consider getting somebody else to read it for you before publishing it, as they may spot something you haven’t. Even the best writers and editors don’t always notice their own mistakes and unintended implications, and this is something we never forget at Engage Web.
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