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Three Twitter Tips to Help Set the Story Straight

Last week, General Electric gave us all a quick lesson on how to flub a Twitter response to a negative story. To quickly recap: The New York Times published a story saying that GE didn’t pay any taxes. Business Insider then got a tweet from GE asking it “to stop repeating the NYT’s ‘misleading attack’.” BI followed up with some pointed questions to get to the bottom of the issue and PR mishaps ensued.

We thought this would be a good time to offer up some tips on how to better handle a situation like this. To help, we consulted with our AllTwitter colleague Lauren Dugan. Our advice after the jump. And please add your own tips in the comments and on @PRNewser.

-Tweet a link to a detailed rebuttal of a story’s claims. As we stated in our previous post, a better course of action would’ve been to create a webpage with a detailed explanation of why the Times story was incorrect, with any links, PDFs, and other materials included to make GE’s case. And once that page was live, GE could’ve posted a tweet alerting BI, other media outlets, and followers that the information was available for anyone interested in learning more. Fortune.com lays out some info here and GE does some explaining here.

This wasn’t a response that could be handled in 140 characters or less, as shown in these two examples. “Your followers will see that you gave the issue some thought, rather than lashing out in 140-character bursts,” Lauren added.

-Send notice that an exec or spokesperson will be available to answer questions about the story. Or conduct the Q&A via Twitter. “Setting aside a specific time to answer questions head-on on Twitter will both a) allow you to calm down from the initially perceived misguided story and b) prepare answers to possible questions that will be asked of you,” Lauren said. “This preparation could have made the difference between GE’s embarrassing (and implicitly guilty) silence and a successful use of social media to mitigate a PR issue.”

-If the problem is big enough, create a dedicated Twitter handle to address issues associated with that story. This one could be a little tricky. This would be a way to keep in touch should an issue become a persistent problem over the course of days, say something like the plane inspection issue at Southwest Airlines. But it could add fuel to a fire.

“You’d have to advertise the existence of the account on your current Twitter account and other social media presences. Plus, it could draw unwanted attention to the problem,” Lauren said.

“However, there are certainly some outlier situations that require nearly 24/7 monitoring, and Twitter is one of the best places to keep tabs on sentiment and respond directly to a problem,” she added.

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