Five steps to resolving a social faux pas

Dec 20, 2015

Social media has the power to make or break reputations and when things do go wrong there is nowhere to hide. In April US Airways replied to a customer’s tweet and accidently included a link to a pornographic image, in a statement the company said they were reporting the image as inappropriate but managed to inadvertently tweet it. Brands frequently hijack trending conversations however is fundamental to fully research the topic before joining in. In an attempt to stay social DiGiorno Pizza tweeted a photograph of a pizza with #whyIstayed but failed to realise the conversation related to thousands of women opening up about why they stayed in violet relationships. DiGiorno has been apologising ever since.

It goes without saying that prevention is the best cure for avoiding social media blunders. Establishing social media ground rules and understanding the potential pitfalls before embarking on an active online presence, will help minimise future risk. However as demonstrated by US Airways and many more, social media faux pas can and do happen, it is how to deal with them that is important.

Assess the damage

Different kinds of social media errors require different responses. Some are caused by simple human error such as tweeting from the wrong accounts, others relate to timing, too often tweets are sent without consideration in the haste to join a topical conversation and others are caused by disgruntled employees or customers taking to Twitter. Consider the situation carefully, assess the damage and plan the response.

Take action

Have measures in place to alert for an uplift is social activity. Long-term damage is minimised the quicker the issue can be identified and resolved. Inaction is the worst possible action, what defines you is how you deal with it.

Own up and apologise

If a mistake is made the best thing anyone can do is own up and apologise. Refusing to apologise, trying to censor or claiming the Twitter account was hacked, will only fuel the fire. Always aim to be transparent and acknowledge the mistake. Delete the offending tweet, apologise and reapologise if necessary.

Decide your next move

Depending on the scale and nature of the faux pas, it may be appropriate to take a temporary step back from the social scene. Alternatively it may be appropriate to respond further, for example after two Dominos employees broadcasted themselves violating health codes the firm responded by tweeting an apology video message and took action against the employees. If it is something understandable, make light of your situation by laughing at yourself. A Red Cross employee accidentally tweeted about #gettingslizzard on Dogfish Head beer on the company account. Red Cross deleted the tweet, acknowledged the mistake and reassured the public that they were all sober. Dogfish Head beer noticed the tweet and responded prompting many followers to make donations to the charity.

Move on

Whilst mistakes should be avoided at all costs, they do happen and in fact some of the best lessons are learned off the back of them. Once the appropriate measure are in place to avoid a reoccurrence it is time to move on, focus on the future and if necessary rebuilt trust. Positive recovery from mistakes demonstrates resilience and perseverance.

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