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Charla Huber: A misfire on Twitter and the ensuing embarrassing encounter

I had an interesting experience a few months ago with direct messaging on Twitter. It wasn’t a scam or fraudulent and I didn’t lose anything, but I did gain some insight.
FILE - The Twitter application is seen on a digital device, April 25, 2022, in San Diego. Elon Musk’s tumultuous $44 billion bid to buy Twitter is on the verge of collapse, after the Tesla CEO sent a letter to Twitter’s board, Friday, July 8, 2022, saying he is terminating the acquisition. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

We’ve all been told to not believe everything that we see on the internet, and I am sure that everyone reading this would have heard this and has probably told someone else the same.

We know to be on alert for phishing scams and other types of fraudulent activity online. When we are being vigilant, we are watching for worst case scenarios.

I had an interesting experience a few months ago with direct messaging on Twitter. It wasn’t a scam or fraudulent and I didn’t lose anything, but I did gain some insight.

I had direct messaged a local community leader on Twitter regarding a column idea I had. We messaged back and forth, and I felt like I had made a connection with this individual and I felt good about it. In my mind I had started to build a professional rapport with them, and they had messaged me praising me for some of the work in the community I had done.

It wasn’t until months had passed that I saw the person in the community, and I approached them in a friendly way because I thought we’d already had a connection and I asked a professional question about a project I was working on.

They looked at me, and I could tell that they didn’t know who I was. I felt embarrassed and introduced myself and still, it didn’t go well.

Before the run in, I’d actually sent them a Twitter message asking the same question, and then when I saw them in person, I figured I’d take the opportunity to ask.

A few hours later I received a message from a staff member who told me that they were responsible for the social media of the individual. The staff member was lovely and helpful.

But the whole experience had made me question the validity of the initial engagement. I was left to believe that the initial conversations weren’t with the leader, but a staff member. I wondered if the praise I received was from the leader or the staff member, but that is merely my own speculation.

At the end of the day, it’s not a big deal. As a communications professional it was a lesson to me about social media and online engagement.

I completely understand that community leaders need to delegate tasks and have staff who are there to support them. I think that when staff are covering someone’s social media, it would be a better practice to acknowledge that from the get-go.

The in-person interaction, I am pretty sure, was awkward for both of us. I felt foolish approaching someone like we had a working relationship, when clearly, we didn’t. The individual might have also been wondering if they had made a mistake for not knowing who I was when I was acting like they should know.

I can take responsibility for this, and I know that the individual, even if they knew me, could have been caught off guard, or preoccupied at the time, not expecting to be approached with a question from someone passing by.

I am sure most of the DMs community leaders receive won’t lead to an embarrassing encounter like mine.

In the future, when I connect with community leaders on social media, I will assume the account is being monitored by staff, or I might ask first.