Teen’s Minor Tweet Causes Major Meltdown in Kansas

Dec 2011

It’s great when the youth of today take trips to learn about the government.  In Kansas a group of high school students were there to hear Governor Sam Brownback speak.  During his presentation an 18 year old student tweeted that the Governor ‘sucked’ and the social media/PR games started. 

His office called the principal and demanded an apology from the girl.  The girl refused to apologize and became an instant hero to those that oppose Brownback.  Her twitter following grew from 61 to over 12,000 in one week.

The situation was a disaster for almost everyone involved but can teach lessons for all of us about social media and how to use it.

React accordingly

Governor Brownback has admitted that his PR people ‘overreacted’ to the tweet and apologized.   His social media people embarrassed him on a national stage for looking petulant and not knowing the rules of social media.  It’s probably not him who is actually running the twitter account.  That person, closely followed by the PR team, should’ve been replaced immediately.

Consider the source

The source is an 18 year old saying that the Governor ‘sucks’.  In the tweets prior to the infamous one, she states that she’s on #TeamEdward, is looking forward to Breaking Dawn, has mixed feelings about Justin Bieber rapping on his Christmas album and loves a perfect day.  If the girl had previously tweeted on farming policies in Kansas or the ineffectiveness of the state senate, then her comment might have carried more weight.

The posts after the infamous one have been a motivational quote from Gandhi, a listing of her email address for inquiries and her statement that she’s not going to write a letter.  She also urges average citizens to voice their opinion and stay strong.

She was using Twitter the way she wanted to.  It was an avenue that she could chat with 61 of her friends on a very fast micro blogging platform.  She was using her First Amendment right to criticize or state an opinion about government.  Unfortunately for the Governor’s office, they  created a teenaged Norma Rae for the social media set.

Respond in the same platform

The girl sent out the message on twitter and the Governor’s office should have responded on twitter.   Taking their request for an apology to the principal of the school opened up the issue for wide scale embarrassment that will haunt him as long as he’s in office.

Monitor/search for your business

On the positive side, the Governor’s office was monitoring social media conversations for mentions.  Social media give all of us the same opportunities to directly respond to a business, politician or whatever concerns us personally.

Don’t follow celebrities on twitter

In a way this girl is now a celebrity on twitter.  What do you accomplish by following her or other ‘celebrities’?  Nothing.  They won’t respond to your @mentions, they won’t RT your information and you look like a trendy minion who is jumping on the celebrity of the moment bandwagon.

It makes perfect sense to follow business or thought leaders.  Their tweets and the way they interact with people on twitter can actually enhance your experience on twitter.  Time will tell, but I bet that the only things people will learn from this girl’s twitter stream are her opinions on Twilight and the Beibs.  Until…. she goes to college, then she’ll be too cool for Twilight  and start up a local chapter of Occupy Topeka.

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