Social Media Adviser

Deleting your social media is a bad idea

Despite what you may have heard or seen, there's a reason why the delete button is hidden — so don't use it

Aug 10, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

By Scott Kleinberg

Remember a few weeks ago when Anthony Scaramucci was in the news for deleting tweets? He's not the first high-profile figure to do it, and he won't be the last. Celebrities have been deleting like it's nbd (that's no big deal) for years and recently it's become a general trend focusing on cleansing and starting over.

There are all kinds of reasons why people delete social media posts. Sometimes it's necessary due to personal safety, but that's different and there are exceptions to every rule. Here we're talking about deleting just because it's possible and a fresh start seems attractive.

Trust me, it's not. Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. I'm a firm believer in being as transparent as possible, and transparency means leaving the past intact.

Compliance is one thing, but this goes for personal and professional social media use. I treat both the same when it comes to this issue.

Do a Google search — or Bing if you must – for "Scaramucci tweets" and notice what comes up: story after story after story about Scaramucci deleting old tweets about President Donald J. Trump.

While you aren't likely to garner as much attention as a Scaramucci or a Kardashian, there's no need to draw negative attention to yourself. All it takes is one eagled-eyed person to notice and make a big deal out of it.

Consider the following before deleting a tweet or any social media post:

• Once it's on the internet, it's on the internet. Delete buttons exist, but like those buttons for pedestrians at traffic lights or the close button in an elevator, they really don't do anything. People just love to take screengrabs to make things last, and there are websites devoted to making sure tweets never actually disappear. Don't believe me? Ever hear of Politwoops?

• The hottest social media trend these days is ephemeral, you know, sites like Snapchat where the content disappears after a few seconds. But again, things on the internet may "disappear," but they never really disappear.

• When someone has a beef with you, you are so much better off facing it than trying to hide from it. Respond to tweets, LinkedIn posts or comments — all of them. Someone might notice if you respond, but they'll certainly notice if you delete their content.

• "Tweet-deleters," a general term for people who argue that erasing tweets and starting over makes the platform feel more conversational and in the now, are likely to spend more time answering questions about their use of Twitter than getting whatever message they are trying to send across.

So what really happens when you delete a tweet? It's important to know.

• Twitter: Deleted tweets may temporarily appear in Twitter search, but will clear with time. Social Media Adviser: Yes, but it takes literally a second to take a screengrab.

• T: When you delete a tweet, it is removed from your account, the timeline of any accounts you follow, and also Twitter search results. SMA: Eventually.

• T: Retweets of the deleted tweet will also be deleted. SMA: The more retweets a tweet has, the more likely someone will keep track of it.

• T: If other people have quoted your tweet (i.e. copied and pasted part or all of your text into their own tweet) their tweets will not be removed. SMA: That's the thing about Twitter — when there's so much conversation, deleting isn't as efficient as it might seem.

• T: Tweets may be cached or cross-posted on third-party websites, applications or search engines. SMA: Twitter says it cannot remove tweets that are not on Twitter. So true, and often overlooked.

The easy way to never have to worry about deleting anything ever is to not make the mistake in the first place. Make sure to carefully read what you're about to post. Take a minute to think about the possible reaction. Never post in anger or in haste.

If you have a social media question or an idea for a column topic, or if you have thoughts about this column or any previous ones, please let me know. Tweet them to me with the hashtag #socialmediaadviser or email me at skleinberg@investmentnews.com.

And remember to follow me on Twitter at @scottkleinberg.

Thanks for reading Social Media Adviser.

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