Businesses Should Plan for a #Socialmediafail

Mistakes are inevitable — the challenging comes with handling them

Back Web Only Aug 3, 2016 By Kelly Azevedo

No matter how careful you are on social media, just like normal social interactions, to some extent failure is inevitable. Brands are managed by humans who are susceptible to making mistakes. The real challenge will come in handling the crises in a way that strengthens your business and team, because it’s not a matter of if but likely when you’ll need to deal with such a circumstance.

Reacting During a Crises

The first reaction to a crisis is usually denial — hoping it’ll all blow over soon or, better yet, that no one noticed. In a world of a 24-hour news cycle and a camera linked to the internet in every pocket, those days have passed.

Public relations expert Jacqueline Franchetti writes, “When a PR crisis occurs, having a plan in place to manage your communications is essential, and social media must be a part of that response, because whether or not you take to social media to discuss the PR crisis, you can be sure that others will.”  

It helps to remember that sarcasm doesn’t translate well online. Instead, pretend you’re interacting with a client standing right in front of you when addressing the mistake. Just like handling a client complaint in person, you’ll want to keep your emotions in check and avoid blame shifting, making accusations or downplaying comments.

Own your mistake, and figure out how to best move on.

Hiding Helps No One

While it may be tempting to delete public comments and direct the media and community to read your latest press release, this behavior will only fan the flames. Public perception is often that deleting the discussion, in part or en masse, is a way to evade responsibility and transparency.

Of course, an inappropriate tweet or post should be deleted, lest someone find it on your profile and make a judgment based on ill-timed or improper content — but always acknowledge the mistake.

Take comfort in knowing that no one is immune from saying or posting stupid things, as the men and women running for public office so helpfully demonstrate. Recently, actor and social media powerhouse George Takei used his platform to apologize for an interview saying, “The words I chose, said in the heat of anger, were not carefully considered.”

Develop Your #Socialmediafail Strategy Before it’s Needed

Few companies have the platform that requires a public relations agency on retainer or the budget to put a crisis team in place, but there are things you can do to prepare for problems when they pop up.

  1. Know who your point person is for resolving a problem — don’t make the media or your team wonder who’s in charge, or get conflicting information.
  2. Take steps to remove the offensive material in its entirety and review scheduled content immediately
  3. Issue a retraction and apology as appropriate, taking responsibility for the mistake
  4. Respond to comments, requests from the media and client inquiries as the public talks back
  5. Review the facts — who, when, where, why — and your social media system to make changes.
  6. Meet with the individuals involved for corrective action or to discuss changes to policy. If needed, have future posts approved before they’re sent until trust is reestablished.

It’s easy to get distracted from your brand focus, post inappropriate content, make a heated reply or simply re-post content from a source you don’t want to be affiliated with, but managing a social media fail is all about how you thoughtfully respond.