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How to Avoid a Social Media Blunder

May 24, 2017

This week, a terror attack rocked Manchester, England, and the collective conscious of the world. As usual when big news breaks, Twitter was abuzz with reports from the scene, speculation about the culprits and no shortage of commentary. While most of that commentary was serious and on-topic, one Twitter user—writer David Leavitt—took the opportunity to make a snarky joke about singer Ariana Grande, whose concert was the scene of the attack.

The response from Twitter was swift and merciless. Leavitt was inundated with thousands of replies and re-tweets, ranging from shock to raging vitriol. Leavitt added a couple more semi-snarky tweets before finally posting a half-hearted mea culpa. But for much of the social media world, it was much too little too late.

Leavitt’s not the only one to make such an unfortunate mistake on social media. Last year, a bedding store in Texas drew ire for a tasteless YouTube video accompanying its September 11 “Twin Tower Sale.” The backlash was so overwhelming that the store actually closed for a few days in a damage-control effort.  

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With the internet’s propensity for insta-snark and viral content, it’s tempting to fire off a clever comment or create a video or hashtag that might catch on like wildfire.social media But when you’re creating content for social media, the most important thing to always remember is to be respectful. Does this joke have the potential to be offensive? Could this comment be taken the wrong way?

Stopping to ask yourself these questions—and consulting with others on your staff—before posting something that may be controversial can save you from hurting others and bringing unwanted negative attention to you and your business.

But let’s say you or someone in your company has made such an error. What do you do then?

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Here are a few tips for handling a social media blunder:

1. Apologize. Posting a sincere, humble apology may not completely resolve the situation, but it will go a long way toward smoothing hurt feelings and undoing the damage of a negative post.

2. Delete. Once you’ve apologized, delete the post. Then let your followers know that you’ve deleted it to prevent others from possibly being offended. Never just delete without an explanation.

3. Make it right. This is the time to go above and beyond the simple “I’m sorry” to show your customers how important it is for your business to do the right thing. Have your CEO or other prominent members of your company voice their apologies via their own social media accounts. And if your post is about a group or event that can be supported financially, make a donation or a commitment to volunteer time and effort to work to help those you’ve inadvertently hurt.

Social media can be a powerful tool for businesses, but it also can be dangerous if used inappropriately. Always remember that respect and kindness go a long way, not just in the real world, but in the virtual one, as well.

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