How to use Twitter without getting fired

The Secret Service apologized recently when one of its employees inadvertently sent out a disparaging Tweet about Fox News on the service’s official Twitter account.

In a statement, the service said the employee “mistakenly believed they were on their personal account” when posting the tweet and said it would “reinforce” policies that would have prevented the mistake from occurring again.

Like many agencies, the Secret Service is a social media newcomer, having joined Twitter with its first official tweet on May 9. As more join its ranks,  it’s worth reviewing the basic features of Twitter so more employees don’t mistakenly run afoul of their agency’s social media rules and regulations.

Related story:

Fox News reports, Secret Service agent decides it’s ‘blathering’

How to use Facebook without getting fired

The most common question I get asked is what is the difference between Twitter and Facebook? The simple answer is that Twitter is an active or dynamic version of Facebook’s “News Feed.”

Instead of having to login to Facebook to see what your friends are broadcasting, you can use Twitter to post, or  tweet, “what’s on your mind,” and those following you can read it instantly on their phones or at

Another thing that makes Twitter different from Facebook is that it aggregates those broadcasts and categorizes them. So instead of random broadcasts as you see on the Facebook wall, you can choose to hear who is speaking about, say, entertainment, technology or politics. You can also see the most popular tweets, follow notable commentators, or your friends.

Like Facebook, Twitter is simple to set up. Just enter your full name, username, password and e-mail address from the sign-up page on and you’re done. After that, you just need to select who you want to follow.

Just make sure to check the box under account settings named Tweet Privacy that ensures that only those you approve receive your tweets. By not making your tweets available publicly, you can at least monitor who has access to your thoughts and statements.

But privacy settings notwithstanding, be conscious of what you post. For example, remember that if you broadcast to the general public that you aren’t at home, that could tip off a thief that now would be a good time to break into your house. Likewise, even if your office worker or friend sees that you just tweeted something funny from work, your boss might not find it quite so funny that you’re not working.

The setup isn’t the only simple part of using Twitter. The main page is broken up into four simple sections: Your home, where you can post as well as read tweets you are following; your profile, which lets you edit or enter data about you and your settings; your messages (which is just that, internal e-mail messages between twitter accounts) and finally a section called “Who to follow.”

The "who to follow" section lets you add or remove tweets from groups you are interested or no longer interested in, which, in combination with your home page, will make up about 90 percent of the time you spend with Twitter.

Twitter messages are limited by the program to 140 characters, including spaces, so they are short thoughts at best. So if you get into sending tweets, remember that hard and fast regulation, and don’t worry much about standard rules of English. Your followers will know what to expect.

Despite their similarities, Twitter and Facebook complement each other because one is about who you are, and the other is about what you like and what you’re interested in. Together they represent a complete social media tool. You can even set up your Facebook page to send a tweet whenever it gets updated. If you do this, remember that your privacy settings at both sites need to be configured properly.

You don’t want to put something controversial on your Facebook page and then broadcast that to the world on Twitter, or on your agency’s Twitter feed, thinking that you are totally protected by the Facebook privacy settings. 

Just make sure you have a proper understanding of what Twitter does, how it works and, more importantly, what you want out of it. Go ahead and experiment. If you keep the tips from this article in mind, government employees can get a lot of personal value out of both Twitter and Facebook sites with very little or no personal risk to themselves or their career.


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