You know that terrible “did I leave the burner on?” feeling you get when you know you’ve just screwed up? Nowadays that feeling also applies to social media. If you’re managing multiple social accounts, you’ve no doubt experienced that feeling when switching between profiles. Did I just sign into my own account… or my company’s account? What did I just post?
I’ve been in the position of having to clean up the mess after a wrongfully-sent tweet in my career, and let me assure you, it’s not fun. However, my experience with social media disasters is nothing compared to that of some of the biggest blunders in history.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of massive PR nightmares caused by social media blunders. While, as a society, we sometimes tend to get really worked up over minor misunderstandings, there have been a handful of exceptions where the public truly had the right to be offended. Companies like US Airways, Digiornio’s Pizza, Best Buy, American Apparel and HMV have all had to face serious consequences thanks to some rather unfortunate tweets. Or who can forget #Susanalbumparty? A hashtag to promote the release party for Susan Boyle’s then-released album.
So how do you pick up the pieces and move forward after a social media disaster? You start by acknowledging your error immediately. Take ownership for what was said on behalf of your organization. In some cases, you can turn a negative social media experience into a positive one by taking a leadership role. The Red Cross turned an unfortunate tweet in 2011 into a fundraising opportunity.
There’s no use placing blame on “an intern,” because the public is smarter than that these days. They know that companies don’t hand the keys to their reputation over to an unpaid intern. Donald Trump tried to blame “an intern” for a recent tweet sent out in poor taste and the internet reacted with a collective eye-roll. Part of Mr. Trump’s digital brand has been to insult and stir controversy, which seems to have worked in his favour on some fronts, but has also alienated him eternally from other segments of the population.
After you’ve apologized for your internet blunder, quickly announce how you plan to remedy the situation and issue an apology if necessary. Once you’ve done this, maybe it’s time to take a close look at how this mistake came to be in the first place. Perhaps you’ll want to institute a strict social media policy among your marketing department.
Authenticity always rules when it comes to communicating with consumers in this day and age. Speak with them, not at them. The approach of speaking down to customers will ultimately make your situation worse.
But whatever you do, ensure that your brand assets are at the ready. When a PR disaster hits, you’ll regret not being fully prepared. By having brand media ready to sent out on a moment’s notice will save you massive headaches in the hours following your organization’s day of reckoning.