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Careers Clinic: How do I make up for a bad tweet?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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Since last year, I have been consciously trying to connect on Twitter with directors and producers whose work I really admire. I was particularly blown away when a major producer with a vast number of followers and whose work I love began to like and even retweet some of my responses to their own posts.

I took part in an online Q&A with the producer last year and posted my showreel link, which they made a very kind comment about. I made sure to interact even more after that, as I would love to work with them one day.

Last week, they posted something about a non-theatrical news story they were very fired up about. I retweeted with a light-hearted comment as I sometimes do, but to my horror the person took it a different way and blocked me. There was a flood of negative tweets from their fans too.

I am mortified to have lost this Twitter friendship but also worried that it will affect my reputation and career prospects in general. What should I do?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE Whichever social media platforms we use, we all communicate via posts with the same character limits, fonts and visual format. This can create the illusion that we are more connected than is actually the case, especially with public figures in or out of the industry.

A friendly exchange of tweets with the Rock once earned me serious kudos with the kids in the family, but I’m not expecting an invite to the Jumanji 2 premiere anytime soon. Somebody with an account that has tens of thousands of followers can’t interact constantly with all of them if they want to get any work done, so it’s particularly important to understand this distinction when it comes to business interactions.

Offline relationships give both parties a chance to get used to each other’s communication style and tone of voice, which often makes the difference as to how a comment is perceived

Offline relationships give both parties a chance to get used to each other’s communication style and tone of voice which, as any acting coach will confirm, often makes the difference as to whether a comment is perceived as light-hearted or insulting. This is much harder with online relationships. Sniffy as some ‘proper writers’ are about them, I am a big fan of using suitable emojis when posting comments that could potentially be taken the wrong way.

This leads me to your current situation. The most recent official figure on total tweets sent per day (published in 2014) comes in at more than 500 million. At that rate, very few tweets will be remembered for long, even if they generate a spike of interest. You can delete your original tweet and apologise in a new one. Make it sincere and not about you, but don’t go on and on. After that, I would suggest muting anyone who insists on dragging the affair out. They will soon get tired and move on (though threats or abuse should always be reported).

The days of any one individual being able to ensure that somebody ‘never works in the business again’ are long gone, but I doubt that any busy producer has time to invest in such a campaign in the first place, and certainly over one comment. Most of us use the block or mute button to stop trolls taking up  valuable headspace.

Even though your own comment was misinterpreted, I imagine it has now been forgotten. If your online apology is sincere, the person may see it retweeted or quoted but you could also send a polite (and short) card via the person’s office or agent. Whether they choose to unblock you or reconnect is entirely up to them.

Having done what you can to make it right, whether you continue to dwell on this or get on with your own work is down to you. I hope you make the right decision.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

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