Erased but Not Gone: What You Should Do To Handle Social Media Blunders

Here’s the scenario: you have an intern who is in charge of your companies’ social media pages.  They have been there a few weeks and have gotten comfortable taking charge of your social media presence.  But one day, the intern decides they want to try to be witty and shares a Facebook post with a joke playing off of a hashtag created for a national tragedy.  Perhaps you or a colleague caught this “blunder” and deleted it within the first hour of the post: but is it really gone?

Chances are no.  Here’s why:

  1. What You Should Do To Handle Social Media BlundersPopular hashtags that are trending are engaging millions of potential customers at incredible speeds.
  2. There’s a good chance that at least ONE person has seen the post, and an even bigger chance that they have either taken a screenshot from their mobile phone of the post or have started sharing what you said + their commentary along with it. Even if you’ve deleted it, someone out there could have physical evidence and that’s not a great situation to be in.
  3. It’s probably started going viral before you even caught it. With the advancements in mobile technology, customers have the ability to use trending hashtags to create buzz for the world-wide web to witness something that can be viewed as negative.  Once it gains momentum, it’s like a huge snowball effect.

What should you do?

  1. If you haven’t caught the mistake, delete it promptly. Gather your team members together to address a few issues: acknowledge the fact that a mistake was made as well as the fact that there needs to be a clear understanding of what is acceptable and what isn’t when posting to social media.  Perhaps you will have to have a sort of “checks and balances” system implemented to approve posts before they are sent to hold each employee accountable when a dire error is made.
  2. Prepare how you’re going to address potential backlash. When it comes to the internet, everyone can have an opinion.  Depending on the severity of the mistake or how quickly it spreads, be aware that it could pick up the attention of news media.  As much as we would like to hide under the covers and hope it goes away, that most likely won’t help.  Acknowledging to the public that you realize the post was wrong and why this won’t completely heal your online reputation with the masses but it will at least show responsibility.
  3. Plan a strategy for who will address the social media followers and media (if necessary). Last thing you want is too many people on different pages.  If you’re sending out mixed messages it can cause followers not to trust your brand and add more fuel to the fire.  Leave the task to a responsible, senior employee who is well versed on what to say and when to question management for things they aren’t clear on.  Be cautious yet considerate.  It’s likely it won’t go away in a day so be patient and plan a well thought out marketing strategy.

When your company is in a crisis that plays out on the internet it can be tough.  With a solid plan of action, great teamwork and a little extra help, it’s possible you’ll back on that moment as if it happened decades ago.  If you find yourself needing some extra help, don’t hesitate to contact the McCauley Marketing Services team who has experience monitoring, strategizing and addressing your company’s presence online.  We frequently share great tips of the trade on our McCauley Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages and always welcome additions to our conversation!