A couple of weeks ago we covered some of the most famous mistakes made on social media networks. Additionally there are hundreds of stories of social media controllers making the simple mistake of posting something inappropriate either in a moment of bad judgement, or more frequently when posting to the wrong account. Twitter in particular can be particularly hard to recognise which account you’re signed in to, especially when using a mobile device. There are constant stories of employees posting to a work account rather than a personal one.
As fun as it is to sit back and laugh at companies making embarrassing and highly public errors, but we would be wise to learn from them. Because in all likelihood, if you use social media, you will at some point make a similar mistake. And how you handle it can seriously alter the way you are viewed as a consequence.
So what’s the best way to deal with such incidents in a manner that minimises collateral damage.
In most scenarios there’s more than one person who controls or has access to a social media account. Even if it’s only one person, the likelihood is that since they’re in charge, they probably use social media personally. There are countless apps which make social media marketing easier (Hootsuite, Tweetdeck etc.) especially on mobile devices, and this can lead to posts going to the wrong account (see the American Red Cross mistake). Always make sure the right one is selected. Or even better: use different apps for personal and work accounts. This will really minimise the chance of making an ill-fated cross-post.
First and foremost make sure you’re prepared for a mistake. If your followers are already on good terms with you, and you’ve managed to build a good level of community spirit amongst them, recovering will be a much simpler process. Build that goodwill early and keep it going.
Remember that social media is fast. Twitter especially, is practically instantaneous. An errant tweet will be published and spread far faster than you can stop it. But you can limit the damage by reacting as quickly as you discover a mistake.
Delete the tweet. It won’t remove it from everywhere; devices that have retrieved the tweet already, for instance, will still show it – but it will stop it showing up in your history.
Even if you manage to scrub it from your feed, it’s almost certain that someone else has probably seen it. Refusing to comment, or even worse, denying it happened will probably make things a lot worse. Focus your energy on reacting, not covering up.
If it was particularly bad, offensive, or if people are generally reacting badly to your mistake, an apology is obviously necessary. Even if you feel yourself that an apology isn’t needed, it can’t hurt and it will likely undo any minor damage to your reputation. It’s also important to remember that your company is made up of humans, and that these kinds of things do happen. If you admit this, and ask forgiveness, the majority of people will respond well.
It’s vital to judge if this one’s appropriate based on the individual incident. If it was minor, no one was offended and you don’t mind looking a bit silly, make light of the situation. Embrace the mistake and make a joke about it. In most cases this will not only prevent damage to your reputation, but even gives you a chance to show off your social media savvy.
A quick trip back to the Red Cross example, where the team over there responded to the earlier tweet like this:
You’ll never succeed in pleasing everyone who may have caught your mistake, and by no means is this list exhaustive, but with any luck this may negate the bulk of the crisis. Just remember to judge which combination of these would be best suited for your audience.