Skip to content

Social Media Marketing Best Practices In Twitter’s Open System

social media best practices ethics in online marketing I recently dealt with an unfortunate situation where one of my tweets was retweeted with the link replaced by the retweeter, thus implying I was endorsing his site (otherwise known as “retweet hijacking.”) You may have read my post (which I have since taken down – read on to find out why.)

My first reaction was one of utter disbelief. How someone could so openly “hijack” a tweet and infer my endorsement without anyone noticing, I don’t know. Maybe it happens more often than I realized; this was my first experience – I’d never heard of it before.

I figured the best way to approach this situation was via DM (direct message), however – long story short – the matter seemed to get out of hand with a barrage of unpleasant DM’s and @ messages from the hijacker directed to me; I then chose to write a blog post about what happened.

I also chose to identify the tweet hijacker by name. This caused further controversy in the Twitterverse; over 60 comments were left on my post and though 90% of my community seemed to support the decision to out the hijacker, 10% didn’t. Fair enough.

My intent in highlighting this incident was to educate others as to some unethical practices going on in Twitter and to rally support in not allowing this kind of behavior.

Could I have achieved my objective without naming names? Yes. Would I have made different choices in retrospect? Possibly. The way I see it is this: Twitter is already an open system; we are all “out” whether we realize it or not.

Who is the voice of your company in social media? It transpired that the person tweeting was a hired webmaster – to be the voice of a well-known, reputable company (I’ve since discovered).

A loyal customer got wind of the hijacking situation and alerted the company. The Assistant Vice President and President of the company contacted me directly. I ended up having a pleasant phone conversation with the President tonight. He was very apologetic, courteous and kind. I have a much better understanding for this company, their outreach and normal business practices.

As a gesture of goodwill, I assured the President I would edit my blog post to exclude his company’s name; however, I chose to take the entire post and all comments down instead. I’m grateful to all commenters who took the time to read my post and provide their valuable contribution.

What can we learn from this situation? Here’s what I believe:

  1. One very important lesson from this scenario is how vital it is to properly assess who is the voice and face of your company.
  2. Reputations need to be monitored rigorously by everyone from the solopreneur to Fortune 500 companies. (For the best book on managing – and repairing – reputations, see Radically Transparent by Andy Beal and Judy Strauss.)
  3. When there is a situation to deal with, do so quickly, courteously and effectively.

What are your thoughts? How would you react to someone intentionally hijacking/misrepresenting your tweets… or any message, for that matter? Do you think business best practices transcend all mediums and, if so, how do we uphold those practices in new media?

Mari Smith

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is widely known as the Premier Facebook Marketing Expert and a top Social Media Thought Leader. Forbes describes Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” IBM named Mari as one of seven women that are shaping digital marketing. Mari is an in-demand keynote speaker, corporate social media strategist, dynamic live webcast host, and popular brand ambassador. She is coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day, and author of The New Relationship Marketing.

More Posts - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn


  1. Sherra Scott ~ Virtual Assistant on May 8, 2009 at 8:47 pm


    I’m glad to hear it all turned out OK. There are always a few bad apples in the bunch. Unfortunately questionable ethics have been around forever, and probably will be. It sounds like you handled the situation well. I remember just a couple of months ago there were dozens of impostors popping up using a modified Twitter ID of yours and your photo. There will always be those trying to make a fast buck off of those who have worked hard to get where they are.

  2. Deborah Bifulco on May 8, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Hi Mari-
    First, good for you for not taking the inital Retweet Hijack sitting down. It always amazes me when I see people behaving in a way that suggests that they have little or no professional integrity. Really, is it any different than plagiarizing an author’s work?

    I suppose the real lesson here is for companies who have employees or contractors updating their social media streams – it’s really incubant upon the business to check on the integrity of the “work” that goes out under their company name, isn’t it.

    Great story and great lessons – thanks for posting this.

  3. Rodney Rumford on May 8, 2009 at 7:51 am

    While it sounds like you tried to make all parties happy (something that is just not always possible). I disagree with your choice to take down the original blog post. I now have no frame of reference for the real story as I came into this too late.

    Removing your original post make YOU un-transparent actually. You might have been better served to put in BOLD: UPDATE: on the original post as this is common practice as a story evolves.

    Outing the hijacker was the right step for exposing behavior that you found offensive on twitter.

    Just my 2 cents. Cheers!

  4. Suzie Cheel on May 8, 2009 at 4:35 am

    I am such a trusting soul and love it when someone retweets, I’ll now be looking more closely at who is retweeting.

    You are such a great educator

    in gratitude


  5. Catherine Novak on May 7, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Wow Mari –

    You can bet I’m going to read Radically Transparent and check the retweets attributed to me after your adventure! It’s so easy to twist another’s words in the online world… and so unfair. Thanks for the wake-up call. You did the right thing.

    Catherine Novaks last blog post..Autofollow: Off! I’m putting my social media on “Manual”

  6. Peter Koning on May 7, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Wow great story. I just assumed, like most of us probably did, that the tweeter = the limo company.

    So now we need an uber-twitter service so we can discuss who’s really behind the tweets – oh but that’s already here in the form of blogs 🙂

  7. Alexander Irving on May 8, 2009 at 2:49 am

    Great job Mari! Great job company President? Our relationships come into clear focus on Twitter and in all the places of our social media world. Who we are (and who our company is) is now reflected in ways and places that never before existed. What happened is far less important than how well we dealt with it. What a good moment for everyone involved.


    Alexander Irvings last blog post..Is Your Salon or Spa ‘Beloved’ in Your Community?

  8. Brian Williams on May 7, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Mari, you always impress. Thank you for sharing your story with us and offering genuinely positive advise for how to behave and deal with the open social media environment. You have educated us all.

    Brian Williamss last blog post..Re: How I Got 15% Conversion On Landing Page Using Powerpoint Marketing Movies

  9. Jody Reale on May 7, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Nice post, Mari. I especially appreciated the concept that we’re all “out” all the time now, whether we know it/like it or not. This is still new to some, and the more people like you reinforce it, the better the Internet is for everyone.

  10. Joanne on May 7, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Thank you Mari. As a Virtual Assistant, it is a reminder to ethically represent clients in this and all mediums. A little overzealous on the part of the webmaster. Dare I say I imagine he got his wrists slapped on this one.

Scroll To Top