In the fast-paced world of social media, it's bound to happen. You send a personal tweet from your company's Twitter account instead of your own. Or you post something on Facebook that you later realize was short-sighted or easy to misinterpret. Or there's always that unfortunate typo.
How do you fix a social media mistake?
Obviously, the best solution is not to make a mistake in the first place. But the fact is that, in spite of our best efforts, mistakes are going to happen. By planning ahead for the inevitable, you'll be able to act responsibly and move ahead.
A recent Mashable article by Zachary Sideman gives some excellent pointers. I've adapted some of his ideas and added a few of my own to provide some solid tips when you're faced with a social media mistake.
Respond as quickly as possible
In social media, particularly on Twitter, an hour or two is an eternity. Even if you're able to remove the content from your own Facebook page, it's still out there. If you realize you've made a mistake, respond as soon as possible.
Monitor the response
By following your Twitter feed or Facebook posts, you'll see if people are reacting negatively and how seriously they are reacting. Take a few minutes to see how people are responding before framing your response.
Clearly, Anthony Weiner's claim that his Twitter account had been hacked was a sham, and it didn't take long for everyone to figure that out. Be honest. "I made a mistake when…" People always appreciate the truth and, as a bonus, it builds trust.
Some mistakes are much more serious than others, and as a result, some mistakes require a much more serious response than others. The problem is, when the mistake is ours, it always feels terrible. Take a moment to bounce the mistake off someone you trust for perspective, and then frame your apology with the right level of seriousness.
Repair the mistake
If your mistake impacts someone else, take the right steps to repair the error, and then let your followers and fans know what you've done.
Once you've acknowledged the error, apologized, and repaired any damage, it's time to let it go and move ahead. In 99.9 percent of the cases, people will accept this and forget about it. It doesn't do any good to beat yourself up.
A bonus tip
A Twitter mistake is most likely to happen when you combine your personal and professional Twitter accounts on the same application. Consider separating them. For instance, you might want to manage your personal Twitter account on Hootsuite and your professional (hospital) account on TweetDeck. That way you're forced to navigate from one application to the other when you change feeds. It's an extra step, but one that could save you a lot of embarrassment.
The lesson in a nutshell: Mistakes will happen. Fix them quickly and get over them.
Dan Hinmon is the principal at Hive Strategies. He contributes to the Hive Strategies blog, where a version of this article originally ran.