Everyone makes mistakes now and then. It’s a part of life, and learning out to recover from them is a vital part of growing up. However, there is difference between spilling someones drink at a coffee shop and putting something out on the internet. In our everyday lives, we can apologize, move on, and laugh about them later on. When you make
a mistake online, it will likely live on forever. This is especially true when you are speaking on a professional social media channel. Mistakes spread quickly, and will dozens of people will likely screenshot your post, so even when you delete the post, it is still out there. The way you handle your mistake can make or break a brand, so you need to have a plan in place to address mistakes if and when they happen.
What is considered a “mistake?”
There are a few different types of social media screw-ups. There are minor mistakes like a spelling mistake, or accidentally tweeting out a direct message. It is almost inevitable that you will publish a spelling error, or spell a name incorrectly (or in the case of one CNN tweet, mistaking Faith Evans for Faith Hill).
Sometimes you may run into issues with hashtags. Bakery giant Entenmann’s famously used the #notguilty trending tag to promote their donuts. The tag was trending due to the verdict in the controversial Casey Anthony trial. Needless to say, the tweet appeared to be in bad taste. Entenmann’s quickly owned up to the mistake, but many people were understandably put off by the initial mistake.
The most egregious, and most important to avoid, is trying to co-opt a sensitive issue or a recent tragedy. During Hurricane Sandy, The Gap tweeted out to those affected, recommending they spend their time shopping on The Gap website. Countless major brands have made this mistake, from joking about the Boston Marathon, to retweeting offensive memes, and even insulting customers.
Why did you make the mistake?
It might not seem important, but the “why” is one of the most important questions to consider. If you have automation set up, did it fail you by retweeting or sharing an offensive post? Did it push out a story at a terrible time? Perhaps the person running your account was simply being sloppy and didn’t check what a trending hashtag was about. There are have been instances where accounts are compromised. If you know the “why,” it can go a long way in preventing a similar mistake down the line.
How do you recover?
No one wants to admit they messed up, but the first thing to do is own up to the mistake. Often times, you can poke fun at yourself, and simply admit to what happened. This is a perfect opportunity to ingratiate yourself to your audience, and humanize yourself as a brand. Turn a momentary lapse into a way to bring in your audience.
With mistakes in automation, take a look on what you have programmed, and consider eliminating the program altogether. A tweet sent out via app can spend hours online without anyone noticing. Taking the time to view and prep your posts is always preferable to automated posting.
In the worst case you need to circle the wagons. Have everyone get together and figure out how it happened and what you can do. Quickly deleting the post without a response will make you look far worse. Craft a sincere and honest apology, and put it out across all channels, not just the platform where the mistake was published. As difficult as it might be, you may have to let someone go. Be transparent, and explain, in detail, the circumstance. Don’t be coy, don’t try to obfuscate, just be honest. Being defensive and trying to talk people out of their anger will only make the situation worse.
Where do we go from here?
Even though nothing online is gone forever, the attention span of the internet is fairly short. After apologizing and correcting your mistake, let it go. Even though it might be brought up afterwards, and people may still be angry with you for a while after, but engaging and continually battling the responses will simply make things worse, and push the mea clupa out of their thoughts. Following the above guidelines will help the debacle pass quicker, and protect your reputation.
There is no way to avoid mistakes entirely. They will happen. Use the as a way to grow a stronger bond with your audience instead of panicking and making another mistake.
The best way to minimize mistakes is to make a plan! Start the holiday season right by laying out your strategy now!