Social Media

Brand strategy: How to recover from a social media blunder

- May 1, 2022 3 MIN READ

If you make a mistake or upset your audience on social media, the worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand. Instead, follow these eight steps to putting things right and moving on with grace.

Social media slip-ups, faux pas or failures happen to businesses of all sizes from time to time. While having a good social media policy in place for your staff can help to minimise these failures, public mistakes on social media may still happen.

Here’s how you can take responsibility for your blunder and move on, while diminishing negative effects to your brand.

#1. Acknowledge the mistake

Your first step after the fail should be to confess to your audience as soon as possible.

Once a mistake has been made, a clock starts ticking and the more minutes and hours that go by without acknowledgment, the bigger the fallout gets. So get it out in the open as you can.

#2. Apologise sincerely

It should go without saying, but the next step is to apologise. Don’t apologise if you don’t really mean it though, as a fake apology will soon be spotted and will add further fuel to the fire.

Instead, think of the people who may have been hurt or offended by your comment and put yourself in their shoes. An example of a good apology was when DiGiorno Pizza used a trending hashtag without understanding its context. Within minutes after people pointed out their blunder, they removed the tweet and then posted on their Twitter: “A million apologies. Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting.”

A short but honest response is often all that’s needed.

#3. Make amends

The next step is to fix the fail by taking concrete steps to ensure it won’t happen again.

For example, this may include strengthening your processes by adding in another level of approvals before you hit publish. In other cases, this may mean providing some type of restitution to any person or business unfairly affected by your social media fail.

#4. Be transparent

Once you have made amends or are in the process of doing so, take the time to close the loop with your social media audience by informing them of the steps you have taken.

Knowing what is going on behind the scenes helps rebuild trust, and by communicating with openness, you can also help control future conversations or media attention around your blunder moving forward.

Cute grey puppy with sad, regretful look on its face

#5. Build a bridge with influencers

If you have passionate supporters on social media who regularly advocate for your company, don’t be afraid to reach out to them during this time by writing a personal message explaining your mistake and what you are doing to correct it. Ask for their help in sharing your apology with their audience.

Once the fire has been put out, make sure you send them a gift or acknowledge them in some way for their assistance.

#6. Avoid censoring opinions/feedback

During your fail period you may receive a flurry of angry messages on your social media pages. This is normal.

It may be tempting to hide or delete these posts, but think carefully before doing so. Social media is a two-way conversation. If you want people to pay attention to your messages you need to be willing to do the same for them, even if you disagree or it may cast you in a bad light.

The reality is that if you delete negative messages this will be noticed, and doing so will only make you look guilty or insinuate you have something to hide.

#7. Upskill your staff

A social media blunder is often a good wake-up call to train your staff in basic social media, communications or PR. Put together official social media protocol and guidelines for your staff, or run a workshop.

In particular, make your staff aware of sensitive topics that are best avoided unless they are absolutely in your wheelhouse – e.g. politics, religion, sexual abuse, natural disasters, etc.

Use this as a learning experience and train your staff in the voice and tone you want to use on social media, so everyone is on same page.

#8. Keep posting

You know what they say if you fall off a horse? Just get back on! Well, the same is true of social media.

If you follow the steps outlined above, most of your audience will be forgiving and quickly move on. So should you!

Keep promoting content, driving leads, selling and sharing useful information. Go back to business as usual and don’t let one bad experience put you off.

This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for 2022.

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