The Red Sox, Twitter, and Context

A lesson in social media from your friendly local baseball team.

The Red Sox taught us a small but important lesson in social media: your tweets do not exist in a vacuum.

Monday, a Missouri county grand jury declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting unarmed black teenager Michael Brown to death in Ferguson, Missouri. The news ricocheted around the country, set off protests in Ferguson, and prompted an address from President Obama.

Less than half an hour after the announcement, the Boston Red Sox tweeted out the following message:

The question was likely a reference to the fact that the Red Sox had signed free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez that day. It didn’t play well. Many people responded on Twitter to point out that the tweet read as flippant in light of the terrible Monday many people were having at that very moment.

This was most likely a case of a social media manager failing to check Twitter or a national news site to assess the context into which this tweet would be thrown. For any of us on Twitter, and especially for those tweeting professionally, it’s usually good idea to make sure America isn’t embroiled in a national controversy about race relations before we tweet that hilarious quip we thought up while in line for coffee. It isn’t often a useful check, but boy, when it is, it’s really useful.

That said, this kind of thing is pretty easily resolved with humility and an explanation. “The intent of the tweet was in reference to a busy day at Fenway. However, the message was ill timed and deleted immediately given tonight’s national news,” team spokesman Kevin Gregg told the Boston Globe. Clearly, the tweet wasn’t meant maliciously. So let its lasting impact be only a reminder that our social networking presence exists in … well a network. And it’s always good to be conscious of the goings on in that network before we speak up.