Sweden Teaches Us How Not to Do Social Media

Sweden's unique and controversial Twitter experiment has drawn thousands of followers for all the wrong reasons. Businesses: Don't let this happen to you.

Oh, Sweden.

What began as a progressive initiative swiftly devolved into a social media disaster this week when Sweden found itself in hot water—once again—over posts to its official Twitter account.

A New York Times story posted this week chronicles the country's questionable tactic of enlisting new, regular Swedes to manage the account for a week, posting freely on whatever he or she wants. "Curators of Sweden," which owns the account and developed the initiative, explains more on its website:

"Every week, someone in Sweden is @Sweden: sole ruler of the world's most democratic Twitter account. For seven days, he or she recommends things to do and places to see, sharing diverse opinions and ideas along the way. After that, someone else does the same—but differently. Follow all nine million of us. Welcome to Sweden."

And so it began.

The first @Sweden, a 22-year-old man by the name of Jack Werner, attracted the first wave of followers after sharing his favorite leisure activities. These included "drinking a lot of coffee," "hanging out with my friends," and, "You know, masturbation." You can read his week of tweets here.

Sure, Werner was crass. But that's nothing compared to this week's @Sweden, a 27-year-old mother named Sonja. She started her train wreck of a week posting a bizarre rant involving Nazi Germany, Jews and Hitler. It all began with the question, "What's the fuzz with Jews?" You can read the three tweets that followed here, here and here. She concluded her rant with this:


Bad idea indeed, Sonja. But it didn't stop there.

Since yesterday's misguided tweets, Sonja has tweeted on topics such as The Little Mermaid's mother being run over by a ship, wishing she had Downs Syndrome and eating a uterus for dinner.

As easy as it is to place blame on the current @Sweden for her ignorant and misguided tweets—and she does make it easy—it's the people behind the page who are truly at fault. She is, after all, still tweeting freely, still representing the country of Sweden.

Here's how the Curators of Sweden define the purpose of the @Sweden account:

The idea with Curators of Sweden is that each curator will share both their own and relevant third party’s thoughts, stories, information and other content that is somehow linked to Sweden. The idea is that the curators, through their tweets, create interest and arouse curiosity for Sweden and the wide range the country has to offer. The expectation is that the curators will paint a picture of Sweden, different to that usually obtained through traditional media.

A memo Sonja apparently missed:


Sweden had a unique idea and opportunity to do something different that, if executed properly, could have been great. Instead, though, its initiative serves as a case study in what not to do and is an important reminder for businesses everywhere: Social media is a powerful tool that provides the opportunity to do lots of good, but in the hands of the wrong people, can be a disaster.

Businesses: Please take notes from Sweden's debacle and be wary when you jump into social media. Know what you want to achieve and take the appropriate measures to ensure it's executed positively. Create a social media policy, preach it and enforce it.

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