Social media is a valuable tool for increasing brand awareness and web traffic, building customer loyalty, and gaining market insights, but it can also be a place where businesses make some very public faux pas. Remember in 2014 when DiGiorno Pizza misunderstood the domestic violence hashtag #WhyIStayed and tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza?” What about when Global Village Duluth celebrated Martin Luther King Day with a Facebook promotion offering “25 percent off everything black”? These businesses and others who’ve made social media mishaps might have corrected the situation using these top tips.
Delete the Offending Message Quickly
Image via Flickr by Matt McGee
The first step any business should make following a social media mishap is to delete the offending message. Depending on the number of people following you and their social media engagement, there’s a chance people may not have seen the problem message or been offended by it.
In the best-case scenario, you’ll recognize your message is inappropriate and delete it before any damage is done. If you’re alerted to the problem through retweets and comments, you should still delete the message to minimize its exposure. However, you’ll also need to take follow-up action.
Formulate the Right Response
In a perfect world, you could delete your social media mishap and pretend it never happened. However, a social media mishap can snowball and your silence will only fuel it. It’s important to balance a swift response with an appropriate one. Hesitate too long and the media and your followers will have a field day. But write a response that doesn’t address your followers concerns and you’ll seem out of touch.
Once a social media mishap comes to your attention, monitor the situation as it unfolds. More often than not this will happen while you’re on-the-go and not during convenient business hours. If you have a mobile data plan, you can monitor the situation from your smartphone even if you aren’t at the office. Once you have a handle on what upset your followers, post a response which addresses their concerns.
Take Ownership of the Error
One of social media’s greatest powers is its ability to humanize a business. Humans make mistakes, and when you’re a business on social media, you probably will too. Recognize that and own up to the mistakes you’ve made rather than trying to cover them up. Blaming a junior staffer or claiming your account was hacked will seem insincere and potentially do more damage. Instead apologize for any offense, admit to not thinking your comments through, and pledge to do better going forward. Your followers will find it much easier to forgive these very human efforts to make amends.
Turn the Situation Around
You might think the best you can do is wait for the bad publicity following your social media mishap to die down. But if you handle the situation well enough, your social media blunder can become a valuable opportunity.
Consider the case of Red Cross employee Gloria Huang, who accidentally used the non-profit’s social media account to publicize she was “gettingslizzerd” on Dog Fish Beer. She quickly realized her mistake, deleted the tweet, and issued an apology which read, “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” She also explained the situation on her personal Twitter account.
It might have ended there if the brewery hadn’t jumped on board and created a “gettingslizzerd” meme which encouraged its followers to donate to the Red Cross. By teaming up after the embarrassing mishap, both companies benefited.
Learn From the Mistake and Move On
When social media mishaps occur, it can be tempting to unplug. Social media is the world’s most popular Internet activity, accounting for 28 percent of the time we spend online, so if you don’t stay connected, you’ll miss valuable marketing and promotional opportunities.
Instead, consider what you’ve learned from the situation. Perhaps you’ll think before you post and take the time to look over your messages carefully before clicking send. Maybe you have gained valuable insight into damage control. Absorb the lessons from your social media mistakes then apply them going forward.
Social media mishaps can severely damage a business’s brand, but take the right steps early and it’s possible to correct any online blunder.
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