08 Mar Is it ever ok to use the ‘F’ word in a tweet or post?
Generally speaking, there are two types of people; those who run a business (or some other public-facing organisation) and those who don’t. Those who don’t are generally less concerned about their online persona or how they appear to others as they’re more likely to use social media to post what they’re up to and, therefore, what they really think. Social media is open to everyone and, in many respects, the freedom it gives people is wonderful.
For example, if a footie match is driving someone nuts and the ref needs locking-up, they’re quite likely to express their feelings through social media (mostly Facebook or Twitter) possibly with rhetoric such as “gosh, I wonder what that ref was thinking” or “my, my that ref is having a day of tough decisions“. Of course the reality is the comment is likely to be a tad more explosive and descriptive than that.
In 2014 Gary Linker was apparently disciplined by the BBC for tweeting “fu***** hell” and “sh*t on Man United” during a match between his home-town club Leicester City and Manchester United. Following the BBC’s ‘disapproval’ Gary responded by tweeting “If I can’t swear when Leicester come from 2 goals down to beat Man Utd 5-3 then I never can”.
Another example is after being on the receiving end of really bad [customer] service as it’s a sure way to stir emotion and social media provides the perfect platform to vent the subsequent frustrations. Naming and shaming the perpetrators and using colourful language to punch-home the message is cathartic and makes the author feel so much better. However, if you’re a business person or have a public profile and your post is picked-up by prospective clients/contacts then they’re likely to remember you for what you said and how you said it, rather than what you do and what you’re good/what you’re known for.
A good example I personally saw on Twitter was directed at a certain rail company and it definitely had some choice words included to make the author’s point. However, it didn’t produce a response despite that company being extremely proactive on Twitter (mostly, ironically, to apologise for bad service, but proactive all the same). What it did was to shape my view of the author because it felt awkward and it seemed like a very unprofessional thing for a seemingly professional business person to be saying.
The lifespan of a tweet is fleeting at best (unless it’s about whether a certain dress is black & blue or white & gold – which had well over a million tweets!) so you might think it’s nothing to worry about, especially if you have only a few hundred followers (Gary Lineker has 3.7 million). Regardless of the number, as a business owner new people connect with you all the time and, when they do, the first thing many will do is scan through your posts to get a feel for who you are, what you talk about and what you’re interested in, in order to see if you’re a good ‘fit’ for them.
Going back to the original question; “Is it ever ok to use the ‘F’ word?”; if you’re in business then just think about what you say and how you say it especially if it’s an opinion or critical observation. You don’t need to censor everything or make it all vanilla, but extreme or potentially offensive language or strong opinions could be very damaging for both existing and future business relationships.