What happens on Twitter… doesn’t stay on Twitter


Even after you click delete.

Yup. You read it correctly.

It’s pretty-much impossible to delete a Tweet.

But there’s a delete button right on the tweet I want to get rid of!

Yes, deleting a tweet in that way removes the tweet from live tweet streams on Twitter.com. It does not guarantee that that tweet wasn’t indexed by any of the social media monitoring tools on the market… including TweetDeck and even Google! This is especially true after the first 30-60 seconds a tweet is live. At that point, you can be pretty certain the tweet in question was indexed somewhere.

Why does this happen?

Twitter is a funny place. Your followers, other influencers, and generally-nosy people simply like to share content on Twitter. That’s how Twitter works. It’s a giant community of folks engaging with each other to share information. Once you post a tweet, it’s fair game for anyone who sees it to retweet it, reply to it, screenshot it, etc. Once that’s done, your tweet is permanently part of the Big Data Universe.

For PR purposes, this can be a nightmare. I wrote some time ago about the fallout from a certain tweet from Chrysler. It was deleted, the tweep was fired and Chrysler drove on. But the entire episode was captured for the world to remember. Ask Nestle, Kenneth Cole, Domino’s Pizza, Starbucks and a host of other companies dealing with social media this way. It doesn’t work and the better companies use these episodes to recover. Not all.

But if you are in the position of “needing” to delete a tweet. Ask yourself why? Or better yet, before you post it, could there be any issue with the tweet or just certain language in the tweet?

Tweets themselves are fleeting. Most of the time, they’ll be forgotten to the vast internet archive. But instances do occur where something happens where you need to react.Let’s construct an example:

Monday: I tweet about an exciting new widget EMC and a partner are developing together. This tweet contains a link to an EMC Community Network (ECN) discussion about said widget.

Tuesday: The original tweet has been retweeted a few times, by no one of any particular influence. None of the ECN comments contain NPI details.

Thursday: The EMC product manager for this new widget realizes the traffic generated and issues concerns, asking the tweets be deleted.

It’s too late. While the original tweet *can* be deleted, it’s out there. Deleting a tweet won’t remove instances of retweeting or from places where it might have been indexed (ie – Google).

If a truly sensitive issue, it would be best to edit the ECN discussion (to contain the exposure) if possible, or if absolutely critical, work with ECN community managers to replace with questionable content with something more suitable, or even delete certain comments. We should *never* leave dead links anywhere on the web, including social media sites, and that includes deleting ECN or blog posts.

Please note the same sequence of events can happen with a blog, YouTube, EMC.com, anywhere. The best course of action is to edit the original source with more appropriate content, than to delete it outright. Doing so preserves search optimization and user experience while also giving you an opportunity to get the message out in a positive way. Folks do notice when content inexplicably disappears.

Twitter users are a savvy bunch. Respect them by offering valuable content that they’ll want to share and engage with. If they get the sense we publish bad content or are in the habit of redacting information, we lose credibility, influence and followers.

You have tons of valuable content, yes?. Let’s share it!

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