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What to Do When Social Media Goes Wrong

What to Do When Social Media Goes Wrong

In a recent post, we looked at the ways social media can go wrong from the business’s point of view. We examined some of the ways that you can DO social media marketing poorly, and how to avoid them. As a follow up to that, we thought it only fair to help you deal with the mess that occurs when something does go wrong, whether it’s legitimately your fault, or whether you’ve been the innocent victim of customer wrath.  Either way, there are things you can do, steps you can take, to help smooth the waters and get your house in order again.


1.)       Apologize. Especially if it truly is your fault. Post something offensive? Post something inappropriate? Own up to it. Dirty laundry or dirty secrets aired for all the world to see? Admit it. The only thing worse than a big, glaring mistake is a big glaring non-acknowledgement of that mistake. Only ostriches stick their heads in the sand. And only jerks don’t beg forgiveness when they’ve done something wrong. Now, if it’s not genuinely your fault, but it either appears to be, or could be made to appear that way, apologize anyway. Apologize for the confusion, or the inconvenience, or the difficulties the situation may have created for your fans. Apologize for everything you can. It’s better to look too sorry than not sorry enough.

2.)     Empathize and sympathize. Show your customers you care by genuinely offering your sympathy and empathy. Social media marketing is all about relationships, and placing a human face to a business. If you can’t let your humanity show in a crisis situation, when can you?

3.)     Don’t point fingers. Don’t try to pass the buck. Remember the owning up bit? If you did it, and you and everyone on the planet knows you did it, trying to blame someone or something else is going to make you look foolish and untrustworthy. If the fault really does lie elsewhere, publicly ask for an apology from the guilty party. Never ask for an apology from your customers. They were the wounded party, even if they started it. You had to have done something pretty drastic for them to turn on you in a public, social media forum in the first place.

4.)     Take it offline. Get all of it out of the public eye as quickly as possible. Even if it takes a while, or could take a while, to straighten everything out and get you back on track, do the majority of the repairs offline. Make a very public, online statement of apology and show of sympathy, then get it off the air. Nothing calms a social media crisis faster than a lack of “socialibility”. If it’s not there to talk about, the talk will move on to other issues.

5.)     Resolve the situation as quickly as possible. Don’t let it drag out, regardless of who’s at fault. If you ask for an apology and don’t get one, make that be known and move on. If you have apologized and made your feelings known, move on. If you are still being harassed by a small group of disgruntled and determined detractors, move on. Point is – Move on. It’s only a crisis as long as you are perceived to be in crisis mode. Get back to normal operating procedures as soon as possible. There is an end to every storm.

6.)     Have a plan. You can’t think clearly in the eye of the hurricane. You can’t act rationally when you can’t keep your head above the fray. Having some sort of plan worked out before the fertilizer strikes the ventilation device is the best thing you can do to prepare yourself. Remember the old saying about the best defense being a good offense? It’s not just for sports teams. Knowing what to do, when to do it, and who is doing it goes a long way to diffusing a bad situation.

7.)     Learn from the mistake. As in everything in business, good or bad, take away a lesson or two. Or three. Or whatever it takes to better insure that something like it never happens again.


Whether culprit or victim in your social media whirlwind of flaming posts and ranting, raving fans, keeping a cool head, having a plan and knowing what to do to diffuse the situation, should quickly make it a bad memory. Learning something valuable from it all will relegate that bad memory to the scrapbook of time, and not make it a frontispiece for future editions.


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