How to fix a social media fail

Social media can be a double-edged sword. It’s an amazing tool for making an instant connection with a potentially global audience. However, if you post something that gets a bad reaction, you can quickly find yourself needing to manage a full-blown social media crisis.

Just look at Adidas. Four years after the horror of the 2013 Boston Marathon terror attack, it sent a message to the 2017 participants with a subject line that referred to “surviving” the event.

Unsurprisingly, a Twitter storm ensued, and when it was revealed that some of the recipients of the message had been injured in the 2013 attack, the faux-pas was reported by the mainstream news. Adidas swiftly apologised:

But what if it’s not always enough just to say sorry? Let’s take a look at how to come back from a #socialmediafail.

Committed a social media fail? Here’s how to fix it.

All businesses occasionally mess up on social media: they accidentally offend someone, or post something that gets lost in translation. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s generally fixable.

So, what should you do if one of your social media posts sparks a backlash?

1) Acknowledge the problem straight away

The first thing to do is acknowledge the backlash as soon as possible. Staying quiet and hoping it blows over is the worst thing you can do. Social media users are impatient and expect a prompt response – especially when they’re waiting for you to reply to criticism!

Even if you don’t have a full response prepared, just issue a short statement to say you’re aware of the issue and will respond in full asap.

2) Be transparent

You may be tempted to go on a clean-up operation to remove as many negative mentions of your company as you can, but deleting this sort of feedback will only make things worse. Instead of silencing your critics, engage with them. If you’ve posted an update that has generated mixed responses, make sure you respond to all of them, positive and negative. This transparency will help your company gain trust.

3) Apologise (obviously)

If your social media fail has resulted in someone taking offence, the best thing to do is apologise swiftly and sincerely. Users don’t expect brands to be perfect, but they do expect them to own up to their mistakes.

4) Explain the fix

After you’ve acknowledged the problem and apologised to any relevant parties, the next step is to examine how the fail happened, and what you need to do to prevent a repeat. Then, you need to go back to your audience and tell them what you’re going to do differently. This might be updating your social media guidelines, or undertaking additional social media training: whatever’s needed to make sure your social media fail was a one-off.

Most people appreciate it when a company is honest about having messed up, and are more than willing to forgive an offence when a brand is genuinely trying to learn from the mistake and do better next time.

So, don’t be afraid of making the odd social media fail: it happens, and it’s fixable.

However, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution and, if you’re not certain whether you should post something, it’s probably wisest not to – just in case!

If you want to increase your confidence in using social media for business, book yourself onto our next Embrace the Space workshop.

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