License to trill – always train staff who use corporate Twitter accounts

As part of my MSc research into public sector staff use of social media, I created some simple recommendations. These outlined that it’s important to be clear on who has access to corporate social media accounts and to ensure these individuals are fully trained on the do’s – and the don’ts.

Sorry to highlight when things go wrong for one organisation. But this is a helpful example that underlines my research. It’s best shared with some screen shots from the Twitter account of Worcester Health and Care NHS Trust. The trust appears to let their work experience student have unfettered access to their corporate social media account. With distressing results.

3.06pm and Grant the work experience student announces to @worcshealthcare followers that he is online…

Grant is online
Grant is online

3.09pm and Grant starts well by engaging with followers to ask for ideas for the next trust publication…

Gathering ideas for next publication - a good start
Gathering ideas for next publication – a good start

He even retweets a story to raise awareness of substance misuse.

Moments later, with little regard to the timing being in the pre-election period, Grant shares a political story. He makes a comment that appears as though the trust prefers one political party’s policies regarding the NHS when compared to the others…

Twitter training - political tweets - first tweet2

Call it bad luck, but this post catches the eye of an EMAP reporter from the Health Service Journal. He retweets the comment and suggests the NHS trust has political affiliations. He alludes to a potential ‘mishap’ on the Twitter account.

Moments later the unsuspecting Grant replies to the comment outlining it’s his views. Plus there’s a bit more dialogue with the reporter which doesn’t help Grant’s reputation.

Twitter training - political tweets responses

Then at 3.33pm the previous tweets are deleted and an apology is made by the trust. (But not before the reporter has taken a screen shot of the tweets so we can all view this uncomfortable exchange)…

Twitter training - apology

The very clever – and cheeky – EMAP journalists add some tongue in cheek responses after exposing the unwitting work experience student…

It has to be seen to be believed

It’s distressing and entertaining reading all at the same time! When I included this example in my presentation at a recent NHS social media workshop, one lady literally had her hands on her head in shock and despair, crying out “noooooo!!!!” very loudly from the back of the room! We shared the Worcestershire comms team’s despair.

It’s possible Grant was left alone in the office and able to use the account without guidance or training. I’m not sure that even with training, I would let a work experience student have access to our corporate accounts without direct supervision. Hopefully this example is one that makes us all think a little more.

It’s interesting to note that the Twitter account remained silent after this incident until 28 April. Perhaps during this time, Grant’s work experience came to an end. And hopefully the trust issued new guidelines to staff – and work experience students. If anyone needs any tips, you can read my MSc recommendations.

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