Social media is one of the best marketing tools a business has at its disposal. It gives businesses a direct route to interact with their audience and present their businesses in a human-like manner. Because social media is well, social, everyone gets a platform to have their voice heard. However, there are in excess of 2 billion social media users, which increases the risk factor for social media as a marketing tool in comparison to TV, radio, print, and so on. Everything can be going so well one minute, with your messaging receiving rave reviews and your audience engaging at record rates, and before you know it, the dreaded blunder occurs and for lack of a better word, all hell breaks loose in a very public landscape.
With so much content being pushed out across the ever-growing number of social media networks, social media blunders are bound to happen and they do so on a daily basis. Blunders are unfortunately part of human nature, and marketing is not exempt to them. But the key is knowing how to react to a blunder when it is committed in order to reduce the damage that occurs to your business. Handle a social media blunder poorly and your audience will not forget and your reputation will take a significant hit with backlash that is hard to bounce back from. With that in mind, here is how to recover from a social media blunder so you can prevent that from happening and protect your image:
Acknowledge Your Blunder
Taking responsibility is the absolute first thing you should always do whenever a social media blunder occurs. Your audience will be watching and waiting for this to happen. Chances are many of your followers already took screen captures of the post and are waiting to use them against you if an acknowledgment doesn't come - and everyone knows how brutal people can be behind the security of their smartphone or computer screen. Given the public landscape of social media, people have come to expect transparency from businesses and that holds especially true in situations like this.
By holding yourself accountable, you are essentially putting your business in a position to at least have some control of the conversation regarding the blunder. It doesn't matter if the blunder was made by someone within your company, or the result of a hack, you still need to take ownership of it. And the acknowledgment needs to come from a higher-up within the company for it to resonate with your audience. Here is an example of an acknowledgment from Crayola - it is good, but would have been better if it was identified as being written by upper management:
In cases where you aren't even sure what the blunder was yet, but negative feedback is already beginning to roll in, you need to at least say you are aware of the situation at hand, are currently investigating it, and will be back with an update as quickly as possible, versus letting the situation get out of control while you attempt to get to the bottom of it. People will respect the response much more than your silence.
Extend A Sincere Apology - And Have A Sense of Humor
The next step should go without saying, but an apology is always in order. Whether the blunder came from an employee or a hack, you still need to issue a formal apology. If it did come from an employee, it never hurts to have a higher-up within the company apologize, as well as the actual person who committed the blunder. People will see right through a fake apology, so make sure it is sincere and comes from the heart. The fate of your reputation on social media is at stake here, so take it seriously. The apology should also come in a timely fashion, otherwise, you may risk giving off the impression you are only apologizing due to rising pressure from negative feedback on social media. Here is the follow-up apology from Crayola after the acknowledgment we noted above (it came less than 3 hours later):
Depending on the nature of your blunder, having a sense of humor about it can help lighten the mood. Obviously, if your blunder offended people, this isn't the route you'll want to go and you should stick to a sincere, formal apology. But in some cases, being candid can turn your predicament into a high exposure gain for your business. For example, the American Red Cross had an incident where an employee sent a personal tweet out on the official @RedCross Twitter account that read: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.” So the Red Cross took the humor route and released this tweet in response, and it was a huge hit:
Fight The Urge To Censor Negative Feedback
This may be difficult to do, but you don't want to censor negative feedback. This goes back to what we covered before about people expecting a certain level of transparency from brands on social media nowadays. Censoring negative feedback is only going to exacerbate the situation at hand and make your brand look disingenuous, which is the last thing you need when you already have a social media blunder on your hands.
You have to remember social media is a public landscape and people have the right to express their opinion about the blunder you committed - whether it's a simple hack and they're poking fun at you, or your blunder offended people and people passionate about that subject are getting out what they need to, that is their right and deleting those comments will simply make your company look guilty and once people catch onto it, watch out. Social media is a two-way street and if you expect people to pay attention when you are pushing out your messaging, you need to do the same in this instance.
Volkswagen experienced what happens firsthand when you censor negative feedback when they started deleting comments on Facebook from people who were critical of their environmental track record, and the backlash got major media coverage and did not portray the brand very well in the public eye. This is the exact kind of situation you are wanting to avoid and why you need to fight the urge to censor negative feedback.
Be Open About Your Fix
Starting to notice there is a trend of transparency here? Now that you have acknowledged your blunder and apologized for it, you need to be open with your audience about how you're going to fix it and prevent it from happening again.
Maybe that means you are going to take another look at your social media policy and retrain your employees as a result. Or that you're going to institute a post approval process so that more than one set of eyes look at every post before it goes out for quality assurance purposes. If you use a social media agency and they were responsible for the blunder, schedule a meeting with them immediately to discuss what you will and will not allow them to post, as well as any other parameters you want set, to prevent this from happening again.
Whatever steps you decide to take, be open about it and tell your audience on social media. This will have more meaning coming from a higher-up within the company and will help your audience begin to see you in a positive light again and assist with moving the conversation away from the blunder.
Learn From Your Blunder & Move On
Now that you have gone through the experience of a social media blunder, learn from it, move on, and don't commit one again! The measures you have put in place should be sufficient enough to prevent that. Just don't let the blunder define your brand - virtually every brand is going to experience some sort of negativity or backlash on social media at some point in time. Some companies fall into the trap of letting their blunder discourage their use of social media in fear of another blunder occurring, or in fear or more backlash, but don't let that happen.
Consider it a wake-up call, so to speak, that you needed to establish better security for your social media pages if there was a hack or that your employees simply needed more social media training. But considering the massive results social media is able to deliver, simply walking away or scaling back your postings is the exact opposite of what you should be doing here and would be a fail for your company. If you handled your blunder correctly, the dust will settle and you should be able to jump right back into the saddle of pushing out content and engaging with your audience.