Handling a Social Media Gaffe Gracefully

The timely and dynamic nature of social media attracts brands and fans alike, but the ability to make quick, off-the-cuff updates also increases the chances of making mistakes and messaging blunders. Ill-conceived posts and innocent mistakes can lead to immediate backlash from fans, followers and critics alike, but there is a right and wrong way to deal with them. If your brand should find itself in the middle of a social media meltdown, keep your cool and keep the following tips in mind.

Don’t react in the heat of the moment

social media mistakes

This is will be the first hurdle you’ll encounter and, in many ways, it might be one of the hardest to overcome. As soon as others begin pointing out your error, you’ll want to react right away. Don’t. Instead, take a moment to examine the situation and begin to plot a course of action. And make sure you do the next step before deleting or altering the controversial post. In the midst of a controversy over the use of palm oil in the brand’s candies, the Facebook admin for Nestle chose to react to posts in the heat of the moment. It didn’t end well.

Confer with your team

social media mistakes

Don’t make any big decisions on your own. Instead, gather your social media team members or public relations team members, and examine the situation together. What happened? Was a joke taken the wrong way? Was a hashtag used inappropriately? Was the post insensitive? Examine what happened and discuss a plan of action together, including a very carefully worded apology, and the outlets you’re planning on sharing it through. Once you’ve established a plan of action, you can delete the post, acknowledge that you’ve deleted it, and direct people to the apology (like Kenneth Cole did).

Be honest with your apology

social media mistakes

When crafting your apology or follow up post, be sure to keep your original group of critics in mind. They were quick to point out your error in the first place, so they will be quick to point out any concerns with your apology, as well. Instead of issuing an insincere or hastily written post/apology, delay posting anything until you have a sincere, heartfelt and honest response. Explain what happened, that the team realizes the repercussions and that the brand apologizes for the error. After an ill-thought-out tweet following the Aurora shooting, the Celeb Boutique brand issued an honest response, taking responsibility for not investigating the hashtag they used.

Watch your tone with follow-up posts

social media mistakes

The nature of social media is such that just a simple word choice can make a sincere post sound insincere, and a sarcastic post sound rude. Keep this in mind when responding to any critics, fans or followers after the incident. You’re already faced with the task of trying to win back fans and customers, so use this as an opportunity to endear your brand and team to them with carefully selected words and posts. Even the Nestle Facebook admin’s “apology” for being rude sounded, well, rude. Not a great way to win back customers and fans.

Don’t be afraid to be creative in your apology

social media mistakes

Although it completely depends on the discussion you have with your brand’s team, and the nature of the blunder in the first place, don’t be afraid to be creative when crafting your apology or response. The Red Cross won themselves a great promotion and a lot of respect from fans and followers after an employee mistakenly tweeted a personal post from the brand’s account. They responded with a sense of humor that followers appreciated and even drove some to donate blood!

Find more tips for social media marketing with our helpful articles and guides.