Resolving Social Media Blunders and Mistakes


It’s all well and good to talk about how to avoid social media mistakes, but what happens when you make them? Your response as a company could turn a social media blunder into PR gold or it could turn a simple mistake into a never-ending nightmare. What’s the secret?

The truth is that, for a lot of social media interactions, there is no magic secret. “Social” is the operative word in “social media”, and what you should do in social situations often meshes with approaches companies should take to social media. So what do you do when you make a mistake? When it comes to our social life, some people don’t know how to begin to apologise, even for a simple mistake. So it’s unsurprising companies are flustered. Take heed of these points however and check out these examples and you can find yourself not only putting out the fires, but rebuilding your building brand new.

DON’T stay silent or do nothing about problems for long.

Many, many decision makers within companies either know nothing of social media or aren’t available for a quick response. An easy way to meet this head on is to either make sure a top, trusted decision maker (not an intern) not only has access to your social media accounts, but can make decisions quickly about potential blunders. In an age where words moved a lot slower, the standard marketing response of not responding worked well. Waiting for the storm to weather made a lot of sense. But now, companies are expected to respond quickly to mistakes, especially on social media. And if they don’t respond, that can often make it worse.

One simple case of this happened in 2011 with the construction company Lowes. They posted an update on their Facebook page on a Friday about their choice to pull ads from a television show and didn’t have the staff to moderate them. Offensive comments piled up, giving the press ample time to take note of them. And when their failure to respond caught wind, they had even more comments to moderate.

While giving yourself pause to think before you speak is always well advised, there’s a difference between thinking and waffling. Sometimes playing hot potato between departments or decision makers about what to delete can cost you precious time, especially if you’re company’s quite large. Make sure you not only have the staffing to support moderation, if such a thing is needed, but also ensure that, if necessary, the decision makers who can decide what is or isn’t appropriate on your social media are at hand.

DO Remain Genuine.

Mistakes are bound to happen. We’re all human. It happened to the American Red Cross Twitter account when their social media specialist sent out a tweet on their account clearly meant for her personal twitter that stated: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”.

Not only did they take the appropriate response by quickly addressing the situation, but the Red Cross actually managed to turn the situation around by responding to the situation with honesty and humour, tweeting: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” The subject of the rogue tweet, Dogfish Head, also got involved, asking their fans to donate to the Red Cross.

Of course, not all social media blunders can be approached with humour, but in this clear case, the Red Cross responded appropriately, but also managed to create something light hearted and fun. Many companies, understandably, feel afraid to bargain with the humour of their brand image, but sometimes being honest can give you more credibility.

DON’T take advantage of all hashtags.

Hashtags are double-edged swords. They can be used helpfully during an event to ensure everyone tweets together, but they can also be used in two very negative ways. The first is when a company decides to use the hashtag to gain a little extra publicity – with or without understanding what the hashtag is for.

In the case of Entenmanns, a doughnut maker, they decided to use the hashtag #notguilty, which actually falls in line to how users employ hashtags when not relevant to an event. Unfortunately, that same hashtag had been trending specifically because of a verdict in the trial of Casey Anthony, a mother who’s child mysteriously died. Trying to get your name out there using hashtags can be successful – depending on the hashtag. But always make sure you visit the hashtag, instead of just using it to get your brand name out there.

Of course, there are times when a company just doesn’t care whether or not a hashtag is used to convey something serious and unrelated to the brand and such is the case with Kenneth Cole who are not only known for sending out a marketing tweet using #Cairo last year, but continuing the trend this year, appropriating a tag meant to discuss issues in Syria to promote footwear. While Kenneth Cole later tweeted an apology for this and other insensitive tweets, they later issued what might be known as a faux paslogy:

“For 30 years I have used my platform in provocative ways to encourage a healthy dialogue about important issues, including HIV/AIDS, war, and homelessness,” he said. “I’m well aware of the risks that come with this approach, and if this encourages further awareness and discussion about critical issues then all the better.”

In issuing apologies, some companies make the mistake of responding swiftly or later with defense, brushing off and not acknowledging why their actions caused the response it did, which only communicates to people that you either don’t care what you did, or you did it on purpose. Think about it. If you step on someone’s foot and then launch into a diatribe about how you always make sure to watch where you step or how inadequate the individual’s shoes are, instead of just apologising, what does that make you look like?

One might say this is a marketing strategy in and of itself as it certainly gets the word of the brand out there – but at what cost? Some say bad press is good press, but that certainly doesn’t hold true for Amy’s Baking Company.

Whenever you’re using hashtags that aren’t directly related to event, as they my start saying now, caveat tweeter.

DO understand how social media works.

Or even how technology works. Some of the worst social media blunders come from the result of hacked accounts. Jamie Oliver had his account hacked by a diet tweeter and, though able to spot the mistake in minutes, it demonstrates a mistake that’s avoidable.

Passwords can be difficult, especially if you have to share them within a big company, but there are ways of making sure you can come up with a secure password. You can either create an alphanumeric code out of your own company’s name that everyone knows, or you can use something like SuperGenPass which generates a unique alphanumeric 10 digit password based on a master password you provide and the URL. That means, even if your master password is “Potato”, you will have a different, customised password for each website using SuperGenPass. If”>How Secure Is My Password to tell you how long it would take a desktop PC to crack your password (and safe to say, if it’s more then a couple of hours, you’re good).

Other social media mistakes can make you look extremely ignorant, but also become great ways for extending PR. Such is the case with the notorious “Ed Balls” tweet. For those unaware, Labour MP Ed Balls sent out a tweet from his official Twitter account on April 28th, 2011 that simply said “Ed Balls”. Since then, it has become an internet meme that’s skyrocketed the MP’s name into the Internet Hall of Fame.

Rather than dwelling on his mistake, Ed Balls embraced the nature of internet humour and went with on the anniversary of his own tweet, causing others to join in on the fun. This demonstrates that, again honest is a great approach that takes a mistake and turns it into PR gold.

So the recap? As mentioned in the beginning of the article, “social” is the operative word in social media. Think about how you would respond to a friend if you made a mistake and the answer to that is: apologise quickly, be humble about it, and be honest. Don’t get defensive and don’t waffle. Mistakes are going to happen, and they happen to the best of companies. Accepting that it could happen will help make it easier to respond and allow you to, at the very least, handle these situations with tact, but at the most, create situations that improve your company’s image.

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