Congressman Anthony Weiner, representing New York's 9th district, has many accomplishments under his belt, from putting at-risk teens to work removing graffiti in a program he called "Weiner's Cleaners" to getting elected "Whip" of his Congressional class. Marketers will be wise to pay attention to something else that happened under his belt, as the representative publicly posted a photo of that region to his Twitter account when he meant to send it as a private direct message instead. (Here's a timeline that mercifully doesn't include the photo that started it all.)
You should have bigger concerns right now beyond how many New York congressmen will expose themselves through social media, following Chris Lee's Craigslist scandal earlier this year (Representative Charles Rangel, please have mercy on the interwebs and keep your shirt on). Marketers, "Wienergate" can happen to you, but the power to prevent it is in your hands. Here are some helpful dos and don'ts:
Do take inventory of who can post to your social media accounts.
Don't use your Twitter handle as your password. Using the Twitter handle of a college student you're flirting with is not a step up.
Do find a way to manage your accounts that feels natural so you stick with it, whether that's on your desktop, mobile device, in a browser, or even via email.
Don't use the same program to manage both personal and brand accounts, given how easy it is to post content to the wrong account. This wouldn't have helped Rep. Weiner, but people so self-destructive are beyond help in such scenarios.
Do follow other Twitter users if you feel so inclined.
Don't follow only people listed on the Hot or Not Top 100 list, unless your brand only targets physically attractive people. As Rep. Weiner learned, others can analyze whom you follow to come to conclusions about your interests, preferences, and whom you're sending naughty pictures to.
Do monitor your social channels regularly.
Don't instantly assume you've been hacked if you see some unexpected content posted on your account. And now that Rep. Weiner acknowledged this was just a cover, no one will believe you anyway.
Do post multimedia to your account. It's normally a great way to engage your audience.
Don't post images of any body part unless it's directly relevant to your brand. Rep. Weiner, for instance, might have been justified in posting underwear shots if he was trying to post solidarity with American cotton growers. More to the point, oral hygiene brands could find rationale in posting photos of people's mouths.
Do remove offensive content if something unexpected and unapproved appears there.
Don't come up with 10 different stories on how such unauthorized content appeared, and then share versions of all 10 stories simultaneously.
Do fess up to any mistakes using the same social channel(s) where you made them, beyond any other way you get the word out. It's the first place people will look for follow-up information.
Don't call a press conference weeks after the mess started only after others discovered how much worse the scandal is.
Do have a sense of humor when human error happens, as most people know it can happen to anyone, including themselves. Even the American Red Cross was caught posting about "gettingslizzerd" with Dogfish Head beer on Twitter. Thanks to quick thinking, it wound up leading to great exposure for both the Red Cross and the beer company.
Don't be a Weiner.