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How to Handle a Social Media Disaster in 5 Easy Steps

It’s a public relations nightmare—publishing a mistake on social media. While small errors, like an innocent typo, can be deleted without much backlash (or even recognition), some mistakes require a more elaborate crisis strategy. (Think US Airways or DiGiorno.)

Having a social media presence is integral for marketing and branding, and just as important is having a plan for when something goes wrong. What you say on social media can stay with your brand even years after it’s been published. So what should you do if you’ve made a social media slip-up?

1. Assess the damage

How bad is the mistake? Can it be quickly fixed or do you need to formulate an apology? Was anyone directly affected or offended by the post? Before you make a knee-jerk reaction, make sure you fully understand what happened so you can plan your response accordingly.

2. Edit or delete?

Once you have analyzed the blunder, you need to act fast. Since social media lives in the “now,” it only takes seconds for a post to get shared throughout the Internet. At this stage, you have two options: edit the post or delete it altogether.

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram now let you edit published posts, so if it’s a simple mix up of “your” vs. “you’re,” you are probably safe with editing the post. Twitter, on the other hand, does not allow editing tweets, so to be safe, it’s best to just delete the tweet and post a corrected one.

In the case of a larger, potentially damaging faux pas, deleting should be the first step you take. Even if you haven’t formulated an apology or a response (yet), it is critical to remove the content from your page as soon as possible.

3. Respond to comments

One of the worst things you can do is nothing. Chances are, someone saw your post, and if it was bad enough, commented on it. Don’t ignore the responses! Owning up to your mistake (and conveying that you are human) by writing a personalized reply can help alleviate the situation.

4. Post an apology (if necessary)

Hopefully you won’t need to publish an apology, but if you do, it’s very important that it comes across as sincere. The only thing worse than not apologizing is posting one that is not genuine. Because of this, make sure your apology is proofread and edited by multiple people before it gets posted. A good apology statement could quickly gain you some trust back.

5. Regain trust

After any sort of embarrassing post, there will be a period of time where you will need to regain your followers’ trust and respect. If you followed the previous steps, this period usually doesn’t last long. During this phase, keep your posts minimal and neutral—give people time to move on and even forget about your mishap. Because everything on social media happens so quickly, your followers will soon move onto the next big thing (perhaps the next social media blunder by another company, but more likely a cat video), allowing you to rebuild your brand’s online presence.

It’s easy to make mistakes on social media. Hopefully you will never have to deal with the fallout of a major error, but if you do, having a well-defined plan of attack will make things a lot smoother.

Have you dealt with a social media disaster? Tell us about it in the comments!