TwitterSmallBusinessOpprotunitiesIf you’ve been following the news lately, you probably have come across the story of Justine Sacco, the (now former) PR executive for media company IAC. Just before boarding a flight to South Africa on Friday, she sent off what is now being called the Tweet Heard ‘Round the World: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

Yikes; but within this clearly offensive tweet are a few lessons for all us, and not just those who work in PR, social media, or marketing. Here are a few things to keep in mind when using Twitter:

1. You never know who’s watching

While your followers may consist only of close friends and/or family, know that they’re not the only ones who can read what you say. Twitter is structured so that it’s incredibly easy to repeat what someone said with the click of the Retweet button. This is both a blessing as a curse, because it opens your thoughts up to the world at large. It pays to always be on your best behavior on social media.

2. Think before you tweet

No matter what you’re tweeting, it’s always a good idea to stop for a second just before hitting Tweet to review what you are putting out into the world. Maybe you’ll have a change of heart; maybe you’ll find and have a chance to fix a typo. In this case, you might be able to prevent a catastrophe.

3. Some topics are never appropriate

I won’t go into them here, but know there are some topics that are never OK for crass commentary or to be taken casually – Justine’s tweet being a prime example. When in doubt with this rule, just delete and move on with your life.

4. Know when a joke crosses the line

While Twitter can be a great showcase for your humor or your budding stand up comedy career, know that there is a fine line between a joke and an insult. If your wit takes aim at another for the sake of the punchline, it’s probably best to keep it to yourself.

Justine has a long road ahead of her, one that I don’t envy. However, no matter how senseless her tweet was, we’re all human and there is always a chance for redemption and forgiveness.