A takeaway from the #sandwichvan


Photo Credit: Sakurako Kitsa via Compfight cc

In this blog’s first guest post, Ian Watt, e-Government Manager at Aberdeen City Council tells the tale of a hastily deleted tweet and why riding the wave of a cheeky trending hashtag is a good thing.


On Thursday 24th January 2013 in the early afternoon the first tweet with the hashtag #sandwichvan was published. Use of the hashtag exploded in and around Aberdeen after a woman in the area accidentally forwarded a (sometimes intimate) email conversation between her and her boyfriend to her work mates. The final email in the chain ended with, ‘The sandwich van is here. xx’, a genuine message to her work mates and inadvertently attached to the conversation with her boyfriend, which was published on Twitter and what followed was #sandwichvan trending in the local area.

@aberdeencc’s use of #sandwichvan

By early afternoon, there were around 260 tweets using #sandwichvan and I wondered how @aberdeencc could leverage the activity and use it to get a message out about gritting information on our website. After attempting to discuss it with a colleague I tweeted the following:

Whether you drive a #bus #car or #sandwichvan in Aberdeen you’ll find useful gritting + snow clearing info here: http://bit.ly/WMYGfj

We immediately had an enormous response- between 70 and 100 retweets– which is far higher than we’d achieved normally in such a short space of time. We’d managed to use a current trend to push out some useful council information.

What happened next

I logged into Sprout Social, our social media monitoring tool, to see how fast the message was spreading and to share the good news with a colleague only to discover I couldn’t find the retweets or our original tweet. It dawned on me someone had deleted our tweet and Twitter being Twitter, all the retweets went too. I soon established a manager who is unfamiliar with social media and works in another area of the council got nervous about the tweet we’d sent out using #sandwichvan and made a lone decision to delete it. To be clear, our tweet did not mention individuals concerned with the email chain that kicked off the #sandwichvan trend nor did we refer to subject matter. We simply leveraged the activity of others to get our message out.

Comment, feedback or criticism
If I understand the position of the manager who ordered the deletion, we’d attracted adverse criticism for our using the hashtag in this way but I can’t find much evidence to support this claim. Certainly we got noticed – the 70+ retweets was testament to that – but we also got other feedback. This is, I believe, is all of it:


And after the Tweet disappeared:

To which another user replied:

There was also one tweet which alleged we were trying to hide our #sandwichvan tweet and which included a screenshot of our original. We had one identifiable complaint:

To which the reply came:

It has also apparently been suggested by the manager who ordered the deletion of the tweet that Twitter was saying that Aberdeen City Council were doing no work. The only tweet that I can find which might be misinterpreted as that was this one which makes no mention of the council and was not a reply to our tweet :

The positive endorsement – and the own goal
It was particularly gratifying to get a tweet from Craig McGill, a respected authority on the use of social media:

He then updated his blog to mention it. It was equally disappointing to see, when the tweet was pulled without comment, this reponse from @BillyTheKid, a regular commenter on Aberdeen on Twitter:

This very much sums up what happened. We were using Twitter in a very normal way as far as our audience were concerned: not corporately, not in a staid manner, not as faceless bureaucrats, but joining in with what was happening in the moment, and using that to spread the important stuff about gritting and roads. That is to say information that is traditionally hard to get noticed.

This time we did get it noticed – but how much we will never know. Along with the disappearing tweet went our stats – and any chance of measuring our reach. We also don’t know how long we would have continued to be popular as a retweeted post – and how many it could have reached. By Friday morning there were almost 2,000 tweets with the hashtag.

Given that the local and national press (including the Daily Mail and Dail Express ) picked up on the story on Friday and referred to the hashtag, we missed other exposure of our message too, as would have been returned as a result of someone searching after reading those articles too.

The deleting of the tweet
There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the tweet. Even if there had been, then deleting it would not necessarily have been the best course. It would have been better to leave it and weather the short storm and if necessary issue a second tweet to clarify the position. There are many supportive opinions on this:

If you say something you regret, you cannot delete that tweet. You can’t just erase history if you said something. You need to go and correct yourself. You can clarify but you shouldn’t delete that tweet because there deserves to be a record of that out there. Own your mistakes and be transparent. – Liz Heron, former Social Media Lead for New York Times, Washington Post and now the Wallstreet Journal

Deleted tweets ….  smell like a cover-up and often make you look suspicious.– Oliver Reichenstein

Why you shouldn’t delete a tweet

1. It’s already out there. You’re hoping nobody saw the tweet, but people did. When you delete it, they will notice.

2. It makes it look like you made a mistake….. If you made a mistake, it will look like you’re trying to hide it. Which won’t work (see number 1).

3. It confuses your audience.

Here’s what [you should do] Leave the tweet. It’s already out there. People have seen it and you can’t undo it. […Issue ] another tweet with details to explain the two seemingly opposite updates. –Curious On The Road: Diaries of a digital journalist

Next steps
This whole episode raises several issues but also presents the opportunity for us to get better.
Included in this are:

  • raising awareness of social media (and how to use it appropriately),
  • steering away from “corporateness” to embrace the language, practices and currency of Twitter
  • holding our nerve and not revert to knee-jerk responses, and
  • revising guidance, and establishing clear authority to be consulted when decisions need to be taken.

35 thoughts on “A takeaway from the #sandwichvan

  1. Thanks for the mention. Very kind. Raises an interesting point about social media that I bet very few policy books deal with. We’ve been that concerned with who has the authority to post comments that we’ve never considered who has authority to DELETE comments…

    Bear in mind, you can’t please everyone all of the time so this has to be an out and out win for the council.

    • I honestly can’t believe that people are on here saying that it’s OK for a local authority to take advantage of a local citizen’s discomfort/humiliation like that. This is the sort of thing that scummy rags and unprincipled hacks with no conscience do, but a local authority sinking to that level? Disgusting.

      If someone meant to leave their partner a ‘personal’ valentines day card/letter and put it in your tray at work by mistake and you realised their error when you saw it, would you then immediately photocopy it and put it on a public notice board? Well I guess you might, but should the local council then seek to leverage it by including a copy next to their public service announcements that they display on noticeboards? What sort of world would that be?

      And how can the person that tweeted this in the council still have a job?

  2. I find this fairly difficult to stomach, to be honest, and I don’t think it takes a degree in po-facedness to have to do so.

    If I’d made a dunderheaded mistake at work, which some dismal toerag had taken it upon themselves to share with the outside world, which I’d later found to be trending on Twitter, I’d be f*cking mortified. Perhaps to the point where I’d feel the need to resign from my position out of embarrassment.

    If, then, I’d later found out that the local Council had latched onto the bandwagon in a smirking fashion, with a wafer-thin justification that it was to spread the word about gritting plans, I’d be incensed.

    If, then, I’d even later found out that its later deletion was being regarded as a) a mistake, b) a damn shame from the council’s point of view, and c) a wasted opportunity in e-media profiling above all else, I’m not sure I’d have the vocabulary to register my anger. And I know some pretty good swears.

    “There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the tweet.”

    This is where you went wrong. All social engagement is not necessarily good social engagement. Try not to let your direct line to the masses paint you as sniggering wee bullyboys, for starters. And especially, for god’s sake don’t cry about it when not everyone you think deserves to hear you is lucky enough to be in receipt of your message.

    • Ricky, I don’t think there was anything sniggering about the way the council did it. They never tweeted any links to the email or anything like that. They saw something that was trending, managed to jump in with a tweet that – regardless of knowing what the # meant – made perfect sense.

      It’s hardly Habitat and #iranelections.

      I don’t see how the tweet makes the council looks like bullyboys at all. Also, at the time of the tweet, no one had resigned from their job so it’s a bit disingenuous to bring that in. Hindsight is a wonderful thing for some.

      But it’s the sort of thing that some will like and some won’t.

      • I’d say it behooves the Council Twitter account not to do anything that makes people’s lives worse.

        It’s not as if these were publicity hounds grasping for people’s attention. They didn’t put the – let’s dignify it with the term – meme out there. It was a genuine one-click mistake, put into the public domain by a c*ckend that knew the involved parties and didn’t care about the outcome.

        This was painfully clear the instant it hit Twitter.To include the hashtag in an official tweet is a balls-out inflammation of a situation that affected people’s lives and livelihoods through no direct action of their own.

        Someone at the council may- rightly – have thought the same, hence the deletion. It’s certainly no more of a supposition than most of this blog-post. If you’re going to bandy the term ‘disingenuous’ around, then a latter-day bemoaning that said deletion either got in the way of an e-media breakout or an attempt to increase gritter-placement awareness is that very thing, in complete mind-boggling spades.

        As for this: “They never tweeted any links to the email or anything like that.”

        Are you people meant to be e-media professionals or what?

        I saw the hashtag earlier that day. I wondered what it was. I found out. That’s how Twitter works. You know it. I know it.

        Using the hashtag meant hundreds of people found out about an unfortunate error, in the public domain by malice and malice alone, and exacerbated it. Yeah, them’s the breaks. But it’s not the ACC’s job to do it, and it’s not the ACC’s job to bemoan when it wasn’t as f*cking whiz-bang as they’d hoped.

      • Ricky, yes, people could go looking for the origin of the hashtag if they wanted but ACC also tagged the other vehicles with # so that – if you didn’t know the background (and a few people didn’t) then you would just think all the vehicle types were tagged, nothing more.

        I also think that you’re stretching when you say that there was malice involved. I would say there was none of that. Even if I saw your side of it, the worst you could say was that someone misread an opportunity to use a hashtag. I doubt there was malice.

        And I think it’s great someone from a public institution came out to talk about it. I’d like to see more of that sort of transparency, wouldn’t you?

      • Craig – there’s no reply button to your 11.05 post, so this is going here.

        You’re getting it wrong. The malice wasn’t on the part of the ACC. The malicious act was on the part of the colleague who put the email exchange into the public domain – you understand that, right?

        ACC using the hashtag pointed people towards the result of a malicious act, in a manner I and others took as gleeful. It would be hard to think otherwise.

        As a result of the widespread publicity given to this malicious act, two people’s livelihoods were put in jeopardy. ACC, as befits their position, were instrumental in this widespread publicity. The content, in this case, got overridden by the excitement surrounding the media method.


      • >Craig – there’s no reply button to your 11.05 post, so this is going here.

        Yeah, I think we’ve busted the reply limit 🙂

        >You’re getting it wrong. The malice wasn’t on the part of the ACC. The malicious act was on the part of >the colleague who put the email exchange into the public domain – you understand that, right?

        Yes. And I totally agree with you on that part. Person was a total tosser and I hope the IT dept found out who he was and threw the book at him.

        >ACC using the hashtag pointed people towards the result of a malicious act, in a manner I and others took >as gleeful. It would be hard to think otherwise.

        It was cheeky, it was unexpected and while, perhaps, gleeful, it was gleeful in a light-hearted way and, as I pointed out, they managed to do it in such a way that if you weren’t in the know, it was just a tweet with a bunch of hashtags and a link to some traffic info. If you were in on the hashtag, it was a cheeky move by an organisation you wouldn’t expect that sort of thing from.

        A valid Q – and I would love to know Iain’s thoughts on this – would be: did the link get more clicks than a normal link from the council? It was clicked 86 times on the day (out of 117 in total). How does that compare to a more traditional tweet from the council with a link (or even better, the same information put out in a more straightforward tweet)?

        >As a result of the widespread publicity given to this malicious act, two people’s livelihoods were put in >jeopardy. ACC, as befits their position, were instrumental in this widespread publicity. The content, in this >case, got overridden by the excitement surrounding the media method.

        Disagree. The content is what we’ve been discussing. Also, has the council been that instrumental in spreading it. As I’ve said, if you weren’t in on the ‘joke’ it just looks like a traffic tweet.

        Also, the publicity would have happened regardless of ACC being involved.

        In my opinion, they did nothing wrong. They saw something was trending locally, came up with a relevant way to try and get some relatively dry information out there and went for it – they didn’t share any of the emails or pics that were doing the rounds. Many people liked it while others like yourself and the other person at ACC didn’t. Very few pieces of social media will please everyone.


        I am. I just think we’re seeing it in two different ways and have to agree to disagree on it.

      • It’s a simple as this: A public body has no place leveraging the embarrassment of a taxpayer.

        The atom-thinness of the justifications (“Naeb’dy wid a goat it, c’mon!”) bears this out.

  3. Hmm, you should maybe look at who has access to the twitter account. Would the manager normally have the ability to post tweets? If they’re that un-savvy with social media then should they? Might be better to have any important “corporate” information fed to a single comms team/individual who has the authority to engage on twitter. Define processes and educate the rest of the organisation. The best social media engagement comes from natural responses and putting out human sounding posts.

    If every post is just a press release from corporate then no-one will pay any attention to you.

  4. It’s good to see the debate here. I’ll try and address the points and questions in one comment….

    Firstly, what we have here is a range of opinions: Ricky’s, Craig’s, mine, Chris’ and of course the person who asked for the original tweet to be deleted. There are no absolute rights and wrongs – just opinions. But the opinions that people hold mean that they will act in a certain way.

    In an organisation such as a local authority it is generally accepted that the dominant personality type is the SJ (as defined by Myers-Briggs) or Guardian (Kiersey): people who are by nature conservative (small c), like order, hierarchy, reporting through chains of command, keeping things steady and following rules.

    This means that such organisations don’t tend to take risks; to move forward, to change, to embrace new technology, or means of communication – or at least not without some pain. There is quite often a battle between those seeking change and those seeking to maintain organisational equilibrium (or some would say inertia). The consequence can be that progress is slow, and sometimes we end up bruised by encounters.

    Back in 1998/99 we had a battle in our organisation whether we should have a council website (proposed by me and one or two other colleagues) or not (put forward by many others who couldn’t see the relevance or value to the organisation). In the intervening 13 years we’ve had several battles around content, design, tone, message, priority of content etc.

    Similarly, we had a handful of people in the council pushing for some time to set up social media presences. It took to March 2010, relatively late, for us to gain acceptance to start using Twitter (and later Facebook).

    At first we had a small handful of people with access to Twitter – and we knew who was doing what, but as the Twitter account gained popularity we had more wanting access to it. This presented challenges – too big for this post – and we ended up after some comparison of possible tools, choosing SproutSocial as the platform to manage social media interaction.

    That means that anyone with access to our account can see who posted a tweet – and so in a case like this could have seen that I posted it and lifted the phone and said “Ian, I’m a bit nervous about this tweet you’ve just posted. Do you think we should delete it?” followed by a grown up conversation. But that didn’t happen. What we had is one person’s opinion being enough to justify having get someone in their team delete the tweet – and no consideration of the consequence.

    Is is my opinion that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the tweet. So, for example I didn’t say, “M******* and E***, if you are trying to escape Aberdeen pursued by the #sandwichvan then you’ll want to know which roads were gritted….” or similar. And there was nothing gleeful or malicious as I posted the tweet. I just saw an opportunity to harness the hashtag itself to get a relatively dry topic out to a wider audience – which would likely be well beyond our 5,700 followers if it was retweeted as I anticipated.

    Craig asked how the click-throughs from the link compares to normal responses. If we look at the period from November to present, we got a total of 321 clicks through to pages (including these ones) and that is for hundreds of tweets containing links. So despite the very short exposure this did get onto people’s radar. We can only speculate on what might have been had the tweet (and many retweets) remained.

    Chris raises some good points too – we do need to get the governance right – and we do need to show that we are humans with access to a corporate account – not a faceless organisation. If we can improve the way we write and engage ( and Solihull Police comes to mind here) then so much the better.

    I started by saying that I see this debate as healthy. I really do think that. It is rare for debates such as this to happen – and even rarer in the open. This was a chance for one of the “humans” behind the Aberdeencc account to present what are, after all, my own thoughts. So, I’m grateful that SPSDG invited me to provide this guest post, and for the points made in comments.


    • Ian, thanks very much for taking the time to post that reply – and to Ricky for taking the time to debate the matter (even though we disagree). I was thinking about Solihill Police as well when posting last night and how quite a few people have found their tweets of late to be “not how the police should use it” but I think it’s great.

      The underlying issue of all of this is that organisations can only learn how to leverage social media and engagement by doing. You can’t do the old control method of approving everything before it goes out but you can have people working there who understand the channels and the ethos of the organisation so that everything is relevant and not offensive but is still interesting.

    • I actually don’t think leveraging the ongoing public humiliation of taxpayers by a public body being acceptable *is* a matter of opinion.

      It was absolutely the wrong thing for the local authority’s comms department to do, by any measure. Someone else clearly felt the same way, hence the deletion. All the talk of click-throughs and degrees of culpability are failing to obscure it.

      • Ricky, you point out that you, one person in the council and Not Nixon all didn’t agree with it – fair play – but do you accept (based on what’s here) that you appear to be in the minority in this one and, as such, it may be your way of thinking that’s wrong and not others?

        Not looking for a row or a fight over it – we clearly disagree – but just wondering if that thought had entered your mind? (And no, not for one moment am I suggesting that majority always makes it OK. I’m just wondered if you’ve considered the possibility.)

      • Craig – of course I’ve considered the possibility; please don’t take my forthright tone for monomania.

        In instances such as this, Twitter being the perfect medium for chortling masses to burp their approval to the fore is certainly a heady brew.

        But nothing that has been said here erases the suspicion that the council knew *exactly* what it was doing when it it included that hashtag in a tangential tweet. The subsequent deletion confirms it.

        I know I’m not wrong in this case, because the alternative – a public body believing that it has the right make hay out of a taxpayer’s extreme discomfort – is too horrible to contemplate.

  5. I’m with Ricky on this. Shameful bullying by jumping on a ridiculous bandwagon. There’s nothing funny in perpetuating someone else’s misery. Just because they did it before the couple resigned, there is absoutely no saving grace in this and people who find this funny are empty headed idiots. This is people’s lives being played with and laughed at. We’re all allowed a mistake, but jumping on the bandwagon to hashtag spam at the expense of someone’s misery is unforgivable.

    I’d like to think those who laughed, or think it’s a cool thing to do have just not thought through the potential consequences of what it might cause.

    Makes the council look like unprofessional bully boys, prepared to capitalise on someone else’s misery.

    As one tweet says, you nearly made it to engagement with the public, but it takes work to build up a level of trust.

    “riding the wave of a cheeky trending hashtag is a good thing.” It is hashtag spamming in the community at it’s best.

  6. If the writer has never heard of using hashtags in this way, just ask Habitat, or the Twitter parties for charities that get spammed with people doing the very same thing. It’s a very real distracting tactic for unprofessional people. Short term you get the tweets, but you don’t build trust or respect which is what Twitter is all about.


    There are many examples going back several years.

    The unwritten rules of twitter to be respected online include: the hashtag must be relevant to the advertising message: advertisers shouldn’t want to ‘spam’ their followers with tons of Unrelated Tweets.

  7. I don’t want to add too much to the debate about whether or not Aberdeen CC’s use of #sandwichvan was or wasn’t in poor taste because I think opinions on both sides have been really well outlined here and, I suspect, pretty accurately reflect what would be the opinions of the general public. Seeing the debate around Aberdeen CC using the trending hashtag here is great and hopefully it will be useful for people using Twitter in Scottish public services in considering their own organisation’s standpoint on using trending hashtags. It is something that isn’t really talked about when organisations are considering using Twitter for communication but I think this is a good reminder that is should be discussed and explored as part of content planning and communications plans.

    I’m more interested in the deletion of Aberdeen CC’s tweet using #sandwichvan. There’s an unfortunate legacy in the public sector of hiding, covering up, candy coating and spinning the hell out of something that may seem embarrassing instead of being open, honest and human. Not only is this shady and frustrating to citizens but it won’t fly on social media. What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet and I would be gunning for the Aberdeen CC deleter’s access to accounts be suspended until they understand this. By the time the tweet had been deleted, someone had already saved an image of it thus making it even more embarrassing. If a tweet has been sent out with a spelling mistake, a broken link, a totally inappropriate hashtag (I’m looking at you Habitat), a crazy statement- whatever- under no circumstances should that tweet be deleted. A better way to deal with it is to send out a correction or a ‘hands up we messed up’ tweet instead. I would argue that even if an aggrieved member of staff uses accounts to slander an organisation (HMV anyone? http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/marketing-director-understand-twitter_b35376), if someone mistakenly posts to a corporate account thinking they’re using their own account (remember the KitchenAid affair? http://mashable.com/2012/10/03/kitchen-aid-obama-dead-grandma/) or if someone uses personal online platforms to post something that an organisation finds embarrassing (recent Applebee’s PR disaster: http://rlstollar.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/applebees-overnight-social-media-meltdown-a-photo-essay/) the absolute wrong way to deal with these situations is to delete (in the case of Applebee’s trying to delete and actual person). Face up to it, deal with it and show the personality behind the corporate. Because, as wise people say, organisations don’t tweet, people do https://spsdg.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/organisations-dont-tweet-people-do/.

  8. Pingback: Riding on the #sandwichvan – some lessons for enterprise use of social media « Brodies TechBlog

  9. Just found out about ACC’s part in this now… I think this is an absolute disgrace to be honest. Just because half the town were talking about it doesn’t make it right.

    Here’s what happened from where I was sitting. Couple make an idiotic mistake and resign (I heard the woman was truly heart broken about what had happened).

    The small minded nasty half of the town decide that the couple needs to be humiliated even more so they forward the email on to their mates without even having the decency to strip out the couples names from the email. Some people also upload it onto their facebooks just to make it worse and then proceed to twitter about it until it comes to the attention of the gutter press who do what the gutter press do and publish the names and photos of the couple in question.

    Aberdeen City Council played their part in that. Nothing will change that.

    I hope the person that did this is sacked and I’ll be contracting the council now to make a formal complaint.

    This cannot just be left as it is, it’s a disgrace.

    • It’s the post that never ends! I think you’re being a tad OTT when you say the small-minded nasty half of the town. People saw it as funny and it did the rounds. People find sex funny – they shouldn’t but they do – at least most people had the decency to forward the version with the names taken out.

      The couple didn’t resign until the next day – well after it had gone round the blocks.

      I don’t think this was people being nasty. It was people having a snigger at a slightly unfortunate event that happened to someone else. They weren’t cheering on a public hanging, they weren’t stoning someone to death so I really don’t think nasty is the right phrase to use on it.

      • Is it really that different to cheering a public hanging in principle though? Well, it’s maybe more like coming out to throw rotten eggs at some poor sod that’s been locked in the stocks in the bad old days actually – although in those days I think you actually needed to commit a crime to be locked in the stocks…

        But anyway, I take issue with you saying that people weren’t just being plain old nasty. A lot of people are actually just nasty and spiteful to be honest and there isn’t much more to it than that really. You only need to look at what millions of people like to read in the worst parts of the tabloid press to see that.

        Large sections of the British public truely love to see someone else humiliated and laugh at another’s misfortune. How can anyone deny that this is true? If you got someone who clearly had mental health issues or was mentally handicapped in someway to make a fool of themselves on X-Factor there are millions of people in this country who would just love it. They’d love to see someone being humiliated like this and would be amused by it.

        Anyway, people are what they are unfortunately. But a local authority should have NO PART in behaviour like this.

        I don’t actually think this issue will go away to be honest and I think people will lose their jobs over this, eventually. I’m in the process of making a formal complaint about it, either the council bosses justify this or they do something about it.

  10. This has been such a useful debate, especially for those of us exploring local government use of social media. And while I wholly respect everyone’s opinions here- and appreciate people are speaking publicly about the issues- @acye yes, what ACC did really is different from throwing rotten eggs at someone, poor sod or not. I think the level of bitterness here is totally out of proportion to the situation.

    I also can’t help but notice the paradox that is attacking someone for what you see is attacking someone in a public forum. Pot, meet kettle.

    I’m off to write that strongly worded letter of support to ACC demanding council bosses let their staff carry on learning and exploring social media and to continue to recognise people might not always like what they do but it’s important to grow and move on.

    • It’s an interesting debate for sure, but I really can’t believe that those arguing that it is OK for the council to have any part in something like what happened to that couple will have a leg to stand on when it is investigated properly with a cool calm head on.

      The initial gut instincts of the masses are often wrong.

      It seems to me that people behave on the Internet in ways that they wouldn’t normally behave in real life. For example, as someone said, would people have photocopied a personal card or letter that they received in error and put it on public notice boards? Probably not, but the Internet is just as real and the consequences were actually far worse. We really need to have people adhere to the standards of behaviour online that they would normally stick to in other areas of life, at the moment they don’t, perhaps because it is all so new?

      Anyway, I can’t see this sort of thing being condoned by a local authority which is what I think they will be doing if they allow what happened to stand with no consequences for anyone.

    • Council bosses won’t and simply cannot let their staff use social media in anyway that their staff see fit though, at least they can’t when their staff are acting in an official capacity and representing the council.

      No organisation would let its employees write anything they liked when representing the organisation.

      Having given the matter serious though it really does seem to me that the only real solution is to demand the same standards are used on the Internet as would be used in any other form of communication. Would an incident like this be referenced and joked about in a letter from the city council? Surely not. Yet on the Internet this behaviour is fine and dandy? I disagree.

    • @lockhartl Really? You think that responding negatively to a post that someone makes on a public Internet forum is equal to a local authority taking part in someone having to endure the humiliation of having a private discussion regarding their sex life spread all over the Internet?

      The two things aren’t the same at all, really they’re not. You come on a public Internet forum and boast that you were really clever jumping on something like this you’re going to get some stick. However the couple in question did nothing to ACC and ACC should not have had any part in any of this.

      • To me, some people are missing a bit of context. Let’s look at the original tweet again:

        Whether you drive a #bus #car or #sandwichvan in Aberdeen you’ll find useful gritting + snow clearing info here: http://bit.ly/WMYGfj

        If you are in on the ‘joke’ then you know what it means – but you already knew about it, so it’s not doing anything new. If you didn’t know about it, the fact that other vehicles are hashtagged means it just looks like another tagged vehicle.

        With that out the road, the main issue seems to be that the council shouldn’t be partaking in something that’s malicious/humiliating about two consenting adults.

        The council never sent the email, never made the email public. All the tweet did was jump onto a bandwagon that was trending locally and find a way to insert itself into the conversation to spread some useful, timely and relevant information to (mostly) local people.

        The fact that it made it relevant means it doesn’t compare to the Habitat fiasco of a few years ago. In fact, at the time of the tweet, it was mostly a localised event, so it was very relevantly targeted.

        There’s nothing in that tweet that’s malicious. Some people may not like the fact here that the council did it but I’m sure there are people who object to the council talking to Sun journalists. Some people will always be offended but there’s nothing in that tweet that is directly offensive or harmful. Even at a piggybacking level, there’s nothing harmful. ACC doesn’t linger on it, there’s no tweets about ‘do you want to know more on #sandwichvan’. They did what any good communicator should do and see what’s happening in their area and inject themselves into the chat in a relevant way.

        So doubt some of the people here moaning about this would also think that Solihull Police’s tweets are disrespectful to criminals and victims of crime.

  11. “If you’re in on the joke…”

    That’s the problem right there, ACC is a local authority and have should have no place or involvement in this “joke”. This “joke” could have been extremely upsetting for the couple on the receiving end of it and I don’t believe ACC would have referenced this nasty “joke” in any other form of official communication, and right there is the problem.

    The problem being that the standards on the Internet are lower than the standards that people and organisations adhere to in other parts of life.

    I don’t believe they’d have done a nudge nudge wink wink sandwich van joke in one of their printed news letters for example.

    One way or the other something will need to be done about this and the city council should adhere to the high standard of communication online that it adheres to in all other forms of communication.

  12. One last thing before I leave this thread for good “they did what any good communicator should do and injected themselves into chat?”. Are you serious? A local authority should have no part in “chat” like this. A council taking part in chat that causes such harm to people is absolutely disgraceful.

  13. “If you are in on the ‘joke’ then you know what it means – but you already knew about it, so it’s not doing anything new. If you didn’t know about it, the fact that other vehicles are hashtagged means it just looks like another tagged vehicle.” – Absolute nonsense. Further more, you know it, I know it, and any fair minded reader knows it. And you’re just making your self look dishonest by trying to cover it up with a justification like that.

    Who ever heard of a sandwichvan tagged as a vehicle type? A van yes, a sandwichvan no.

    People reading that tweet who were not in on this disgusting ‘joke’ would likely just wonder why a sandwichvan should be tagged as a specific vehicle type and trace it back to it’s source. That is how it works and you are not doing yourself any favours by trying to pretend otherwise, people will just see this nonsense that you’re spouting as a justification for what it is.

  14. This is exactly why companies need to take advice and set out a social media etiquette policy for some of the inadequately supervised and inexperienced people who are in charge of their social media (hence public face) accounts.

    They spend hundreds of thousands on training their Press Officers to be polite, netural and inoffensive while saying the right words, yet they allow the lowest paid minions do the even more public act of Tweeting and Facebooking.

    I am still struggling with the people who thought this was in any way acceptable at all. The “anonymous” person who tweeted that is not media savvy, no matter how many followers they have.

  15. “All the tweet did was jump onto a bandwagon that was trending locally and find a way to insert itself into the conversation to spread some useful, timely and relevant information to (mostly) local people.”

    I can’t believe that even a month later, thus disingenuousness was still being trotted out.

    What part of “A public body has no place leveraging the embarrassment of a taxpayer” isn’t clear?

    • To be honest, I think that a month later some of those people defending what Aberdeen City Council did just don’t want to admit that they were wrong. It seems to me like many people just went with their gut instincts at the time and made a serious error of judgement, yet can’t bring themselves to publicly admit it.

      Personally if I worked at the council and I’d posted that tweet and somebody deleted it I’d be thanking them in the same way as I might thank someone for pulling me off the road if I had stupidly stepped out in front of a bus without looking.

      Arguements like ‘nobody would have got the joke unless they already knew about it’ just don’t stand up to justifying a local authority trying to make hay out of something like this.There are all sorts of sick ‘jokes’ going on on the Internet that almost nobody would get but that doesn’t mean a council should play any part in any of it. Councils really need to be above this sort of thing.

      The Internet is very impersonal and it’s easy for some people to forget that there is a real person behind it.

      Craig McGill for example wrote “at least most people had the decency to forward the version with the names taken out”. I work in IT in Aberdeen and saw what was being forwarded, most people certainly didn’t have the deceny to forward the version with the names taken out where I was sitting. I think statements like this are unlikely to actually be true (although who really knows for sure) and are just smoke screens to hide how bad the incident actually was. Those so called ‘social media experts’ don’t seem to be very expert at all.

  16. Pingback: Wise words and mega maps | Bruce's IT-ish world

  17. Pingback: Riding on the #sandwichvan - some lessons for enterprise use of social media | blogs

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