Anyone who works in social media knows that the opportunities for hugely-embarrassing mistakes are numerous and lurking around every corner. The chance that said mistake will be horribly embarrassing and make you loathe the day you dipped your toe into the social media pond are about 85 percent.
Take, for example, this tweet sent out by Today's Chicago Woman this morning:
The personal nature of the tweet itself was enough to send my entire corner of the office in sympathetic groans. After all, who among us hasn't lived in fear that, one day, while distracted by a phone call or still sleepy from the night before (brand managers notoriously get very little sleep), we'd accidentally tweet out something private from a brand account, in plain view of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of followers. It happens.
What happened next though, should not and doesn't have to happen.
— TCW Magazine (@TCWmag) June 21, 2013
We've all been there, @TCWMag. No need to BS people.
— Scott Smith (@ourmaninchicago) June 21, 2013
And on and on it went. Obviously, having half of Chicago calling your brand a liar is not really what you're shooting for. Here then, are three things NOT to do when you make a social media mistake.
1. Don't stay silent: All brand managers have tweeted out something they wanted immediately to take back. And while deleting a tweet and praying no one saw it might work for spelling errors and erroneous-yet-mundane personal tweets, it's not a particularly good strategy when you've just gotten all hot and heavy with all of Twitter. If it's bad enough, trust me, they saw it. And screen capped it, and shared it with everyone they knew. Now you have no choice but to address the situation.
2. Don't fall back on the old "we were hacked" excuse: No you weren't. Anthony Wiener wasn't hacked and neither were you. You made a mistake that the whole world saw. It's upsetting, yes, but as America learned during the Richard Nixon years, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up that gets you in real trouble. Don't insult your followers by thinking they're so easily duped. Own up to your mistake. Do not lie to your followers.
3. Don't underestimate the power of a sincere apology or the ability to laugh at yourself: If your tweet or post wasn't offensive and isn't hurting anyone, making a joke out of your mistake can be a great way to endear yourself to your fans and followers. After all, no one likes a brand that takes itself too seriously. If your post was offensive or insulting, make a sincere apology to your followers and explain what steps, if any, you're taking to make sure you don't make the same mistake again. Then move on. Do not let your followers drag you into a never-ending situation where you're apologizing over and over. Don't argue with your followers and don't delete their posts (no one is a huge fan of censorship). After an apology, continue your social media practice as you normally would. In time, people will forget.