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Bill Cosby Is Not Dead: 4 Tips to Prevent Spreading Twitter Rumors

by Verónica Jarski  |  
November 17, 2010

Minutes after my emergency c-section, my best friend up north called the hospital to see if I was alive. She had gotten a call from a friend, who had spoken to my mother’s co-worker, who was talking with my mother when my husband called her about the emergency. The final message resulted in my rumored death. And I’m not even a celebrity!

Now, just imagine the truth-mangling on Twitter. Frightening, isn't it?

You don't have to be scared, though.  Just make sure you do the following before tweeting a hot topic:

  • Go to the source.
    Don’t make wine from a poor grapevine. Find the root of the rumor first. Maybe the blog post said the product was harmful only if it came from one manufacturing plant. Or a press release had a vital word that a tweet missed. Get the actual info first. You don't want to hear what someone said that someone else said.

  • Reach the subject.
    Heard news about a person or company? Don’t forget to check their blog, website, Twitter account, etc. Poor Bill Cosby often has to tweet that he's alive, so people don’t believe a recurring rumor of his demise. My favorite rebuttal comes from Jeff Goldblum on The Colbert Show.

  • Vary your research.
    Once upon a time (pre-2006), people didn’t rely solely on Twitter for news leads. Folks used different sources: television, newspapers, phones, the local watering hole, magazines, and going to the hot spot. Remember that Twitter is a tool—not the entire toolbox.

  • Wait.
    It’s better to pause, get the details then tweet. You don’t want to tweet wrong information then end up having to send a slew of apologies. Not only do you ruin your reputation, you also make your organization look bad. And in some cases, you can be suspended from work or even fired. You don't want to add to the online din. You want to make every tweet sing.

So, how do you handle trending topics on Twitter?

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Veronica Jarski is the Opinions editor and a senior writer at MarketingProfs. She can be reached at

Twitter: @Veronica_Jarski

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  • by Gary Muddyman Wed Nov 17, 2010 via blog

    Great piece Veronica, and while I laughed when reading it, I think you touch on a serious point. It's the old journalism addage: better to be right than first. That little piece of wisdom seems to have been lost on the internet, but if citizen journalism really is ever going to be journalism, online writers need to be very aware of the content of your post.

    I'm a Brit, so my lesson comes from here, but I am sure it rings true everywhere. There is a reason the BBC actually doesn't mind being beaten to the news by Sky (the Murdoch-owned UK equivalent to Fox News). And that because it prides itself on always getting the facts right. The BBC's reputation consistently rates higher as a trusted source of news than does Sky's, and that's because they take the time to check every fact before going to air. I do watch Sky News, but I know who I trust more, especially on breaking news stories!

    Thanks for reminding us of this important lesson in our "real-time" world!

  • by Bridie Jenner Wed Nov 17, 2010 via blog

    Interesting article, and comment - I hadn't realised that about the BBC. And yes, I know who I'd trust more too.

  • by Gail Sideman Thu Nov 18, 2010 via blog

    You are so right, Veronica. This happens in sports reporting as much as anywhere. There have been lots of backtrackers lately. Best to be accurate rather than first with false information. In many cases, reputations are at stake.

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Thu Nov 18, 2010 via blog

    Gary: Exactly! "Better to be right than first" is a very good rule, one that definitely needs to be kept in mind, especially in the digital age.

    Gail: That's the root of it, isn't it? There are reputations, people's lives and well-being at stake. A mindless tweet can deeply affect a person, for better or worse. We need to be mindful in our tweeting.

    Thanks for your comments!

  • by S Nicole Hamilton Tue Nov 23, 2010 via blog

    This is something I definitely take to heart and pay special attention to. I am re-learning our product line since re-joining our team so it's very important for me to learn things that have been updated (especially competitor products and what they can / cannot do) before posting these things online.

  • by Soap Making Oil Tue Nov 23, 2010 via blog

    This was a much-needed article - I have seen so many people get their feelings hurt over twitter rumors and things of that nature. In business, competitor trash-talking runs rampant as well, and it's good to know that perhaps there is some code of ethics (although they are unwritten) out there.

  • by Karen Mon Nov 29, 2010 via blog

    I was taught to always check TWO sources for important facts. Confirmation doesn't really take that long when people know the cat is already out of the bag. (I even use this before I believe office rumors - no matter where the rumor comes from.) Good advice.

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Tue Nov 30, 2010 via blog

    Fact checking is so important, but it does get forgotten most of the time ... Good call on making sure product info is up to date before posting it online!

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Tue Nov 30, 2010 via blog

    Exactly. Tweets might seem to go into the nebulous Twitterverse, but they do affect people all the time. That's why it's vital to take a moment or two (or, heck, even a day!) to make sure what we tweet is accurate.

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Tue Nov 30, 2010 via blog

    Very good point, Karen! Two sources is so much better than one source. Thanks for your comment!

  • by Jeremy Mott Tue Dec 14, 2010 via blog

    What's the monthly traffic on and other such websites?

    Thousands of people check for urban legends and emails and rumors and such.

    I give friends one mistake, and then I discount everything they say.

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