Would you sack someone if they accidentally got your Twitter account suspended?

I’ve just received an email from a distraught colleague who’s been sacked for getting her agency’s Twitter account suspended.

She reached the 2000 limit of the number of people she was following, so started unfollowing some people and following others instead. Twitter treated this as suspicious activity and suspended the account.

And apparently her bosses have gone ballistic and sacked her summarily.

Quite apart from the employment law issues here, this raises lots of questions that, quite frankly, were asked of me during my stint as a social media bod on the agency side and which were operative in my decision to get out.

Namely:

  • People who don’t know about this stuff think there are millions of people talking about them and laughing at them across the world right now, and it’s just not true. In fact, in the case of this Twitter account suspension, I daresay no one really noticed. However, the brouhaha around this sort of issue is probably because people like me were employed to go around scaring other people into giving us large sums of money by telling horror stories such as The Walmart Blog That Came In The Night and The Awful Case Of The Kryptonite Lock.

This is one reason I got out. I don’t think social media is going to change the world, at least not in the same way some people claim, and I simply cannot stand people who bully others because deep down they’re scared about it all. For every ‘big’ social media story there must be bazillions we don’t know about. For every champagne fountain of success or huge stinking cesspool of failure there is an entire ocean of unexciting, unstimulating social media flotsam and jetsam.

  • What happens now? Click image for source.

    What happens now? Click image for source.

    People who don’t know about this stuff think that people who do, know everything about it. But there is so much to social media, it spans such a huge amount of stuff and is still so new, that no one can know everything. I mean, my friend took Twitter to the limit, quite literally, and whereas I had a vague notion that something happens at 2K, I didn’t actually know what that would have been or how to work around it. Who knows what can happen with Facebook? What should we avoid with YouTube? Or Flickr? Or ZooBoing-Woop or whatever will come around next? I mean, given that the earth is flat, what happens when you get to the end of it? Do dentists really know what to do when they puncture your sinus? Any ideas?

This is another reason I got out. People who know nothing about social media think that you know everything. People who do, think that you don’t. It’s a lose-lose situation.

  • If you make a mistake, surely that means you’ve learned something? It’s easy to get stuff right if you just operate within narrow limits. If you push the envelope then occasionally it’s going to break, but at least you know where that limit is, and how to get there. I see this as a fundamental difference between US and UK philosophies. In the US, you start a business and you fail, means you know how to fail and therefore avoid it in future. In the UK, you’re nothing. This sucks.

And this isn’t a reason I got out, because generally I found the programmes I worked on were, well, fairly tame, so I wasn’t given a chance to really screw up. Blogger outreach? Meh. Monitoring online? Bleh. Nothing like the wonderful things expressed in Groundswell. Like I said, it’s mostly mediocrity (which I guess is a tautology). Not that I haven’t screwed up generally. There was the time that I [INSERT SCREW-UP ONE HERE], oh and the time I [INSERT SCREW-UP TWO HERE], and then again I once [INSERT SCREW-UP THREE HERE] with a cucumber.

So what you think? Going back to the title of this post, would you sack someone if they accidentally got your Twitter account suspended? I guess the reasoning in this case goes that, if you hire someone as your expert, you put faith in them to know about the 2K limit, then having hit it, to avoid activity that Twitter classes as ‘suspicious’. And more generally, if you hire an expert you expect them to know lots of stuff and not screw up.

But it does seem an extreme reaction to me. The whole world is not watching; no one can know it all; and accidents will happen.

If you scroll back up this post you’ll see a poll. Let me know what you think.

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5 thoughts on “Would you sack someone if they accidentally got your Twitter account suspended?

  1. Am slightly gobsmacked by someone being sacked for this, but then again there has been a fair few things that I’ve seen happen in the social media space that have discombobulated me a tad over the past couple of weeks, and not in a good way.

    I agree that ppl who know little about social media tend to think you must know everything about it, but that’s why it pays to be as honest as you can about the limits of your knowledge – especially internally.

    Finally, I’d forgotten about the cucumber incident – think I’ve still got the audio for that one somewhere, must dig it out sometime ;-P

  2. I vote no. It seems like a fear driven madness to me. The lost followers could be easily re-found and if they are interested they will follow again. It is like a parent divorcing their child the first time they are suspended from school.

  3. I can understand the bosses being concerned about the suspension (depending on the influence of the campaign or Twitter feed) but surefly they should wait for a full explaination from Twitter and then issue a warning to her – not sack her! That’s a completely different kettle of fish – especailly when it is ultimately Twitter’s fault! due to their abstract FAQ!

  4. What a relief: everyone was suspended from Twitter for a while today while it dealt with a denial of service attack.

    But as you say, what did this individual do wrong: ‘determined denial of service attack’?

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