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Communication lessons we can learn from the HPB’s tweet bleep

I was quoted by The Straits Times today on Singapore Health Promotion Board’s tweet bleep. 

You can read the full article here (Subscription needed).


There are some communications lessons we can learn about this incident.

However, before we go there, there is a need to highlight that Twitter still serve an important news channel to today’s digital generation. The reason why some followers tweeted negatively about the incident because of the perceptions that we have of governments, squeakily clean and polite, which some of you might disagree.

As such, if you are handling a government or even a brand Twitter account, be sure what you say to the public is what you want the public to hear. In this case, it was a technology snafu but the reaction was quite predictable.

Separation of State and Church

This bleep in the tweet was probably the result of somebody forgetting to switch account from HPB’s to a personal one.

It is unavoidable that we have personal accounts but the lesson learnt here is how do we unsure we don’t get blinded by this confusion.

There are suggestions that different browsers be used for personal and brand account. Or even different Twitter apps for each account.

I suggest that you do your personal social networking and updating on your personal devices and your official accounts on your work devices.

With smartphones and tablets becoming more common these days, use your personal devices for your personal account.

This will reduce the chances of a wrong tweet entering the wrong account.

My parents told me not to spew profanities. This is a reason why.

The F*** you tweet was probably meant for the handler's friend and some friendly banter.

But if you are really looking to be a communications professional, maybe the best advice is that you shouldn’t be spewing profanities to your friends, especially online.

Besides that fact that the Internet never forgets, there is also muscular memory in action too.

If you keep typing the F-word, there is a tendency for you to also type it out because your muscles in your fingers have been doing it for the last 100 tweets.

Cut the profanities!

Learn how to communicate when technology snafus occur

When the ST journalists called, he might a rather strange comment that agencies he spoke to were not looking to answer his question as social media was no longer a story.

This isn’t a case of bad social media but rather a technology snafu that embarrassed a brand.

Most agencies today will say “Hey, let’s not dignify this with a response”. In yesterday way where information is only available in print and broadcast, no news maybe good news.

Unfortunately in today Search world, a response is probably what most public will be searching for. 

Without a proper reply, it creates even more misperceptions about the brand.

For example,  I blogged about it and most of the readers are coming to the site searching for HPB post. The way the Internet works is that not just Singaporeans will see the post, but the whole world that is connected to the Internet.

Not dignifying with a reply means that the views are coming from one side and it could create the perception that the Health Promotion Board isn’t aware of it anyway.

Yes, though the newspaper picked it up but because it is only accessible by subscription, not many will be aware of how HPB reacted to it.

Interesting, the social networking generation isn’t really concern about the bad news. Bad news happens everyday and it also helps to sell the papers. Bad reviews are also unavoidable.

The social networking generation is more interested in how you react as a brand.

Look at all social media snafus. If you delete a post which criticize a brand or gives a bad review, you get more negative impact than your brand should be getting.

But if you get a bad review or negative comment, but you react positively to it, you get positive comments.

The game here isn’t to hide negativity, but how you deal with it.

For example, there are some concerns on the Taggo Facebook Page over the concerning of sharing their LIKES to everybody.

We addressed such comments that Facebook users can still get their normal discounts but if they can be indentified as a fan, they get more discounts.

Furthermore, we have also highlighted that we tried the various privacy options for the likes but the other options wouldn’t allow the identification of fans. We also shared that we respect their rights to privacy and it is their choice to link or not to link their credit/debit/transit card to their Facebook account.

We left the post there together with our reply. So far, we haven’t got any negative response and we turn negativity to a somewhat neutral.

The communications game today is about how your brand reacts to negativity as nobody’s perfect.


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