DAMAGE CONTROL: 5 Tips to Keep Your Social Media Faux Pas from Turning into a PR Disaster

Apr 2015
social media damage control, pr for social media, social media for businesses
Photo Credit: @popsofplum

It happens: the insensitive tweet, the inappropriate comment, the unfortunate typo. Just as in real life, blunders are inevitable on social media and can happen to anyone. Sometimes it’s the result of a poorly thought out idea, sometimes the intent is good but the message is misunderstood, other times it’s just an overlooked spelling mistake.

In any case, it can be problematic. This holds especially true for businesses, since one wrong move can reflect poorly on your brand and do major damage. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent a slip-up from turning into a complete PR nightmare.

Here are a few damage-control tips to turn to when you find yourself wishing you’d never hit that “post” button.

Act Swiftly

While taking some time to carefully think about your next move is wise, it’s also important not to take too long. News on social media spreads like wildfire, and the longer you leave the situation as is, the more likely it’ll snowball into an even bigger problem — either by picking up viral steam or making you seem cowardly or indifferent. That’s not the kind of message you want to send.

Once you’ve realized something has gone awry, come up with a game plan and execute.

Acknowledge Your Mistake

Depending on the type and severity of the mistake, you may consider removing your post, but denying that it ever happened can easily backfire. Once you’ve put something online, assume there’s a copy of it somewhere and that it can emerge at any time.

In most cases, owning up to your mistake will make it less likely that someone will try to expose you and more likely that the problem will blow over and be forgotten.

A simple acknowledgement and an explanation of how you plan to deal with the situation is sufficient in most cases.

Make the Appropriate Apologies

Sometimes, however, simply fessing up isn’t enough. If your tweet, message or post has an offensive bent to it, you need to take things a step further and apologize. Identify the individual or groups you may have offended and offer a sincere apology. A little bit of humanity and humility can make all the difference.

Laugh at Yourself

If your gaffe is in the form of a careless spelling mistake or other typo that changes the original meaning of your message, explain it and then make light of the situation. This can even make the situation work in your favor by upping your brand’s likeability. People appreciate companies with a sense of humor.

Move On

Again, remember that these things happen. Bad posts happen to good companies. People understand that and for the most part are willing to forgive and move on as long as you respond swiftly, appropriately and sincerely. From there, keep doing the good work you’ve always done and you’ll be in the clear before you know it.

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