How to Handle a Social Media Mishap

As a Social Media Manager for many clients, one of my biggest fears is to post something to a brand page that shouldn’t be there. Whether it be a typo, the wrong client post, or just a cute personal baby picture – posting the wrong thing can cause unnecessary chaos. Which is why I’m always extra careful and double check things many times before hitting the publish button. However, if you pay attention to the social media world at all – you’ll know that sometimes this isn’t always the case and some pretty big slip ups can (and do) happen.

Some of the biggest slips ups in 2016 included a mistaken identity, inadvertent insults, and a much-needed geography lesson. It just goes to show – even the big brands aren’t immune to error.

Like this magazine who apparently had never met Whoopi Goldberg before:

Or this cheeky insult that really wasn’t funny:

Even Coke is human – their campaign launched in Russia featured an outdated map leaving off Kaliningrad (annexed following WWII)

So, we know that these things can and do happen, but what can we do for damage control when it does?

Step 1: Determine How Big the Crisis Is

First and foremost, you need to evaluate the extremity of the situation. Is this something that can be quickly brushed off, or will this require more public attention? Some good points to help you gauge the severity are:

  • Length of time the content has been live.
  • The reach of the offensive content.
  • How widely insulting is the content.
  • The degree of outrage response. (from 1-10)
  • How off-brand was the content.

With this in mind, you can appropriately decide how to handle responding. With a large crisis it may be necessary to have a team assess the problem before moving forward, smaller scale problems can be addressed quicker with less involvement to avoid further escalation.

Step 2: Dispose of the Evidence

Remove the offending content as fast as possible. While it’s impossible to permanently delete anything off the internet (thanks screenshots), it’s important to not leave it easily attainable if possible. Sure, it would be great to remove the mistake and pretend like nothing happened, but the goal in deleting the post isn’t to make it disappear – rather to acknowledge that it was recognized as inappropriate and is being handled. Many times, simply deleting the content and releasing an apology is enough to handle the situation.

Step 3: Take Responsibility

The best way to quell the roaring crowd is to admit fault. Address that there was an inappropriate post, that you’re sorry, and it’s being handled. Also, be sure to respond to criticism accordingly. Deleting comments or ignoring attacks is a good way to just invite more anger. Show your followers that you hear them and you want to make it right.

Step 4: Get to the Bottom of It

Once you’ve done your part to mitigate damages, the real work begins. Delve into the process to find out why the issue happened in the first place and what can be done to keep it from happening again. Was it a missed opportunity to proofread? Did someone not do their research? Whatever the cause it’s important to locate it and better streamline your future process.

Social media mishaps are bound to happen, we’re all human. It’s all about how you handle it that takes you from a good brand to a great brand.

Stay social my friends.