7 dos and don’ts following a social media mishap

Even the most cool headed among us can let emotions get the best of us online. Here are some things to add (and avoid) in your strategy.

Social media is so powerful that a single post can make or break a brand’s reputation. This is why it’s important to think before you post, either as yourself or on your business’s behalf.

Still, sometimes things don’t go as planned. What seemed like a good status may turn out to be offensive or insensitive once feedback starts coming in. If you find yourself in this scenario, don’t despair.

You can bounce back from a social media mishap with these tips:

Do:

1. Own it. Mistakes happen, so be the bigger person by acknowledging the situation and taking ownership of it.

An example of this is what frozen pizza brand DiGiorno did after a blunder. The company decided to ride on a trending topic on Twitter at the time, saying “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” As I turned out, the #WhyIStayed hashtag was trending in reference to the different personal reasons women had for staying in abusive relationships. DiGiorno deleted the post, admitted they didn’t check the context of the hashtag first, and replied to every angry tweet with a personalized apology.

2. Inject humor. The amount of humor you should inject into your damage control depends on the kind of image your business presents and the severity of the faux pas you committed. If you touched on a heavy subject involving religion, politics or other sensitive topics, play it safe by handling the backlash with appropriate seriousness.

With little mistakes, you can try a light-hearted approach. Check out the way international organization Red Cross handled a rogue tweet on their Twitter timeline. Their social media director intended to post a tweet about getting drunk on Dogfish Head beer on her own account, but ended up posting on the organization’s account instead.

3. Turn it around. What’s been done is done, but you still can make a gaffe work for your business by taking it as an opportunity to do better. An example of this is when brewing company Dogfish Head prompted their followers to donate to Red Cross and tweet about it with the hashtag #gettngslizzerd, right after they got involved in the aforementioned Red Cross Twitter mistake. In response, Red Cross showed support for Dogfish Head’s move by retweeting it. People were amused and impressed by the way Red Cross managed their PR disaster, so much so that some of them ended up donating blood.

Don’t:

1. Claim you’ve been hacked. People know well enough to figure out if your social media page has been hacked, or if you’re just using the virtual equivalent of “the dog ate homework” excuse. It’s bad enough you already committed a gaffe, so don’t make it worse by treating your audience as though they were dumb. It won’t turn out OK, as Arizona restaurant Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro learned the hard way on Facebook, Yelp and Reddit.

2. Pretend it never happened. It’s tempting to wait it out until people find another scandal to talk about, but not acknowledging the situation only makes them stick around longer to see what happens next. Delete the controversial post if you must, but your audience still deserves an explanation.

Don’t remove negative comments and block users, as that will make people come back with a vengeance, like what happened when fruit spread manufacturer Smucker’s deleted Facebook posts condemning its stance on genetically modified organisms.

3. React before you think. Luxury vodka brand Belvedere Vodka faced intense backlash on Twitter when they issued a half-hearted apology after posting an ad that makes light of rape. It goes to show that when replying in haste, you may make things worse with an inappropriate statement. Take your time to craft a thoughtful response that combines a sincere apology and accountability.

Don’t wait too long, either. Social media disasters should be addressed as soon as possible.

4. Protest too much. Being defensive makes you look like you’re letting the situation control you and not the other way around. It also makes you seem resistant to constructive criticism. This will fuel the trolls who try to bait you into arguments you’ll regret later. Don’t fall in that trap. You’re setting yourself up for more ridicule, like what occurred after the long rant posted by dating app Tinder on Twitter in response to a negative Vanity Fair article.

A social media meltdown in itself is not the end of the world, but things can either get better or worse depending on your damage control. Hopefully the tips shared here will set your business on the road to PR recovery, and not the point of no return.

Alexandrea Roman is a social media specialist and copywriter for Azeus Convene. A version of this article originally appeared on PR in Your Pajamas.

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