Secret Service starts Twitter account, stumbles

Just nine days after starting an official (and verified) Twitter feed, the U.S. Secret Service had a pretty public gaffe that most professional social media managers have experienced (or feared) at some point or another. As reported by ABC News and other outlets, a staffer accidentally tweeted something meant for a personal account. The department commented on the slip to ABC’s Jake Tapper:

“An employee with access to the Secret Service’s Twitter account, who mistakenly believed they were on their personal account, posted an unapproved and inappropriate tweet,” Special Agent in Charge Edwin M. Donovan said in a statement to ABC News. “The tweet did not reflect the views of the U.S. Secret Service and it was immediately removed. We apologize for this mistake, and the user no longer has access to our official account.”

Donovan also mentioned that “policies and practices which would have prevented this were not followed and will be reinforced for all account users.” There have been a number of such gaffes that have made headlines, including a marketing agency employee who mistakenly tweeted on behalf of @ChyslerAutos:

That tweet cost the marketing firm its contract, and the employee his job.

Social account management/posting tool provider HootSuite took notice of the incident and added a new “double-check” feature to their service to help eliminate “posted to the wrong account” errors (kind of like Google Mail Goggles for social media accounts).

Unfortunately, the feature is reserved for “enterprise users” and not available for free or pro accounts, a policy Hootsuite should change, as many organizations would pay for the safeguarding feature as a stand-alone upgrade.

Mistakes happen, and I hope the experience and growing coverage doesn’t deter the Secret Service from continuing to experiment with Twitter. In fact, the news may have inadvertently jumped-started interest in their Twitter feed, which has garnered nearly 22,000 followers in less than two weeks. It  now sits at the 51st spot in GovTwit for U.S. agency Twitter feeds.

Ultimately, the incident is simply a good reminder to always double-check before posting to a brand or agency account you may help manage, and perhaps it may pay to research use of tools like Hootsuite to help eliminate the possibility for such errors.

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  • Dave from HootSuite

    Thanks for the mention Steve. Indeed, these mis-Tweets are becoming more common and amplified even louder (i.e. @redcross, @chryslerauto, @marcjacobsintl…) the bigger the gaffe, the bigger the news.

    As you mentioned, at HootSuite, we noticed these PR nightmares and added a “secure profiles” tool to require an extra confirmation step to prevent accidental sends, plus secure account provisioning so access is quickly stopped if someone gets out of hand.

    This protection is especially imperative for Enterprises which is why it’s included in that plan – but we hear your feedback.

    Seems like the Secret Service (or any other noteworthy organization) may want to consider adding this tool. We’re here to help via

  • Steve Lunceford

    Dave, thanks for commenting and I do hope you consider alternatives, especially for government agencies and non-profits who would largely have a hard time justifying the $1,499/month price tag, and wouldn’t need the other services the enterprise plan provides (30 seats/team members, vanity shortener, etc).

  • Lori Livingston


    Great, timely article. I would like to link to your blog from the newsletter that I produce for Maryland state government social media managers but need to erase the F-bomb on the Chrysler tweet. Would you give me permission to do that if I left all else in tact? Thanks for the consideration.

    Best Regards,

    Lori Livingston
    Social & New Media Manager
    Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources

  • Steve Lunceford

    Lori, feel free. After reading your comment I actually decided to alter the image here as well.

  • Lori Livingston

    Thanks so much!