This week Prince Harry announced his engagement to American actress Meghan Markle. You would be forgiven for thinking that little else is going on in the world such has been, as we might have expected, the level of interest up and down the country.
And, inevitably, many people have been quick to offer their heartfelt best wishes to the happy couple on social media. Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party was one of those who tweeted her: “Congratulations to HRH Prince William on his engagement to Megan (sic) Markle. Wonderful news this morning!”
You may have spotted a slight error… Prince William is, after all, already married.
Certainly a slight faux pas, but Ms Foster was quick to correct her error: “Apologies to TRHs Princes William & Harry for tweet error on my account earlier. I stopped tweeting personally a long time ago. Genuine typo by a member of staff. Guilty of tweeting too fast. There goes any chance of an invite!! 🙂 AF”
This highlights an interesting phenomenon that has been slowly eating away at the credibility of social media as a forum for news, views and comment. I’m not talking about the fact that a mistake has been made – I’m sure there are many examples of such errors and Ms Foster’s slip is by no means extraordinary, or particularly damaging (unless she really has blown her chance of being invited to the ceremony”).
What I’m talking about is Twitter’s raison d’être itself. Isn’t the whole point of Twitter, and indeed the entire ‘social media revolution’, that we get news and views “direct from the horse’s mouth” rather than via some faceless third party or staffer?
This raises the question; How much of your Twitter feed is really providing you with the real thoughts and opinions of the people you think you are following? Or has the entire social media sphere been hijacked by PR teams and publicists who portray what they think you want the people they represent to be saying?
Of course, I appreciate that the celebrities and public figures most people want to hear from are among the busiest people around – their time is precious and preparing consistent social media output is actually rather time consuming. Doubtless these people need some support to get their messages out there – Arlene Foster is propping up the British government for example – but is the credibility of that message damaged by the fact that they aren’t the ones actually responsible for that communication?
Then again maybe that doesn’t matter – maybe it’s actually safer for PR teams to handle social media output. I’m sure some of Donald Trump’s staffers would love to wrestle his cell phone from his hands in an effort to avoid another potentially diplomacy-damaging Twitter spat.
Maybe you don’t really care who pens the Twitter content you read so long as it’s interesting, informative or sensational?
In which case the real lesson to the PR teams and publicists responsible for tweeting on other people’s behalf is just to proof read your tweets before you post them!