The worst has happened. Maybe your social media manager sent a personal tweet from your business account, or possibly your of the moment candor wasn’t received well from your audience. Whatever the mistake, you need to address it, and quickly. Here are a few examples of companies who handled their unfortunate moment in the spotlight well, and some that did not. We break down the lessons learned from both situations about the power of social media, how it can positively or negatively affect your brand and the public's vision of your company for much longer than the life of your post.
What to Do Example: American Red Cross
It happens. When a social media manager has access to logins of both a corporate and personal account on one social network, it can be easy to switch back and forth between the two unknowingly, especially on Twitter where it takes just a button to switch. Click the wrong icon and whoops, a personal tweet can go out on a corporate account. While this type of mistake should still be taken very seriously, it is also quite common. This Red Cross employee didn’t double check before posting their tweet, and became one of the many before them who frantically went to delete the message. But it's what Red Cross decided to do after that saved them.
Lesson Learned: Honesty and Humor Work Well Together
What could have been a public relations ordeal turned into an opportunity for Red Cross to come clean, make light of the situation, and actually received donation requests from the company that was mentioned in the original tweet. The worst thing they could have done would have been to ignore the slip and act like it never happened. Instead of just saying sorry, like most companies do, they poked fun at the original tweet. This is the perfect example of using a mistake to show your company’s personality, and even though they acknowledged the slip, the public response was overwhelmingly positive.
What NOT to Do Example: Kansas City Chiefs
A grumbling Kansas City Chiefs fan (with 125,000 followers we might add) took to Twitter to release his frustrations about his team, which is a pretty common occurrence on Twitter. Now, instead of responding in a positive manner or ignoring the rude tweet - the individual who runs the official KC Chiefs Twitter account sent a direct message to the individual, telling him to “get a clue”. And while direct messages are private, you can bet that response didn’t stay private for long.
Lesson Learned: Never Insult Your Audience
Please, don’t ever tell any of your followers to “get a clue”. Ever, even if they need to. While the accuser may have been in the wrong, a company or organization should never engage in back and forth banter with someone else in public or in private. You must think of your social media accounts as the world’s window to your company’s soul. Everything can be saved via screenshot, everything can be shared with the public, and once you post something it technically will be there forever. You must have patience when responding to your audience. It’s important to train your staff to always stay overly polite on social, because your reputation could truly depend on it.
What to Do Example: Delta Airlines
This one is pretty harmless, but definitely makes Delta look slightly oblivious. They tweeted a nice congratulatory post to team USA for scoring in their game against Ghana during the 2014 World Cup. However, it wasn’t their text that got them in trouble. The photo they created representing Ghana in the tweet featured a giraffe, and a follower pointed out that there are no giraffes in Ghana. Other negative comments followed suit. Unfortunately this made Delta look a bit lazy, or as though they didn’t care enough to check the validity of their statement.
Lesson Learned: Check Your Facts
The worst thing they could have done would have been to ignore the slip and act like it never happened - or delete the message out of embarrassment. Luckily, Delta quickly responded and acknowledged their mistake. The entire situation, however, clearly could have been avoided - and probably made their marketing team blush. They do get bonus points for posting about trending world events and not trying to turn them into a sales pitch. They recognized their mistake, corrected it, and everyone went about their day. But word to the wise, always take the extra time to double check your post, regardless if you're posting for a major brand or a local store.
What NOT to Do Example: Epicurious
During the horrific incident at the Boston Marathon, Twitter was keeping everyone updated on the situation, and users were tweeting their condolences to the victims of the crime. However, in a serious lapse of judgment, Epicurious mistakenly saw this as the perfect opportunity to promote their product. Not only was this a poor decision, it was remarkably insensitive and completely unhelpful to the individuals affected. Naturally there was a public outrage after their posts were sent out, and people couldn't understand why this company thought what they had done would ever be acceptable. The company quickly released a half-hearted apology after receiving negative backlash for their tweets, but the damage was already done.
Lesson Learned: Use Good Judgment
This is another yet extreme example of when not to jump on something #trending just for the proposed exposure benefit to your company. The best way to prevent this from happening is to hire good people for the voice of your brand, and to inform anyone in charge of your social to really pause before posting something even remotely controversial. It's probably better to miss an opportunity than to risk putting off many of your customers or potential fans. Posting your opinion from a personal account is one thing, but a company’s reputation is a completely different beast. It’s always better to err on the side of caution than to do expensive damage control later on. Epicurious learned this the hard way.
Social media can be tricky to navigate even when things are going well. With the internet, what we say and how we say it can be visible for all the world to see, potentially forever. It's important for your workplace management team to hire the right people and communicate expectations for your employees who control your office's social pages. Happy posting!