How to Deal with Mistakes on Social Media



Giving your brand a face on social media is the best way to be present in your customers’ lives, even when they aren’t specifically interacting with you or your product at that moment. Maintaining active profiles across the major platforms allows you to have an audience who can optin or out of your circle at any time. Just as with  human friends on social media, people expect a few things from you as a brand. In this post I will offer suggestions for how to deal with situations on social media that either don’t go your way, or, conversely, are unexpectedly positive.

Putting your brand’s face out there in the digital world is a smart strategy, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to like you all the time. Everyone (companies and individuals) makes honest mistakes. And beyond that, there are people who use social media as a tool to vent frustrations, be they rightly targeted or not. It’s important to have a strategy to deal with these instances so that you don’t see your efforts on social media fold in on themselves.

What we’re essentially looking to assure here is that our audience who has decided to optin to our circle finds no good reason to opt out. Providing good, relevant content is the first part of securing an audience’s loyalty. The second part is properly cleaning up a mess when it happens, whether we made it or not. How we’ll deal with each situation depends on how it arose.

Take the case of a Honey Maid graham crackers ad from last year. The company released a video with the tagline “This is Wholesome.” A section of its customer base reacted negatively to some of the content in the video labeled as “wholesome,” and Honey Maid quickly crafted and released a response. What followed was a barrage of conversation surrounding the company and its ethics.

On the other side of the spectrum, this racist tweet from Dave & Busters was deleted after half an hour, but not before the company could be harangued by its followers and see articles written about the blunder. Half an hour, and the damage was done.

Here are the two different kinds of messes we want to know how to clean up. No matter what, don’t get forceful or argumentative. Regardless of what the situation is and how it arose, social media is about the right to express one’s opinions and, as a company dealing with the individuals who ostensibly pay the bills, calling them wrong or disallowing them from expressing their views will not work.

In the Honey Maid situation, where an individual does not agree with the stance put forward by the company, the company does not need to apologize so much as clarify their position. In this case, Honey Maid did not misrepresent itself at all. The ad was emotional and morally progressive, and in the end the company’s stance gained it more supporters than it lost.

In the Dave & Buster’s situation, someone may need to lose his or her job. At best, this mistake fits firmly in the OOPS category; at worst it’s blatant and unabashed racism.

Obviously, the offending tweet was deleted as soon as the company realized it was a problem. Shortly after that, they tweeted: “We sincerely apologize for the tweet that went out today our intention was never to offend anyone please accept our apology.”

The key to mending errors on social media is to respond in a timely manner and to do it honestly. As shown by Dave and Buster’s screw up, you can’t kick something like this under the rug. In the case of Honey Maid, it might just turn out that a well-dealt-with controversy ends up helping your cause more than anything else.


Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by dickuhne

About the author: Dylan Thaemert

Dylan Thaemert is Social Engagement Manager at Social Media Contractors. He graduated from Loyola University Chicago, where he earned his B.A. in English, specializing in Creative Writing.

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