We all make mistakes every now and then - and with social media, it can be all too evident when a company errs. While many companies may be inclined to quickly hit delete and hope no one noticed, several have come up with more transparent ways (some humorous, some more somber, depending on the circumstance) to correct social media blunders on corporate accounts. Here are a few examples of my favorite social media mistakes, handled as well as possible (given the circumstances).
A rogue tweet from an employee meant to come from their personal account got posted to the American Red Cross twitter account stating “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer….when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.” This tweet sparked a light-hearted follow-up from the Red Cross stating “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” Dogfish Head brewery was very amused by the incident and used it to show support for the Red Cross and encourage donations. It was a situation dealt with in a very positive way through the use of humor and clever wit. In a statement to their supporters the Red Cross acknowledged the public’s understanding, “In the meantime we found so many of you to be sympathetic and understanding. While we're a 130 year old humanitarian organization, we're also made of up human beings. Thanks for not only getting that but for turning our faux pas into something good.” This is a prime example of a social media blunder gone right.
During the uprising in Egypt, Kenneth Cole used the media coverage to capitalize on the news and insert promotions for their new line. Tweets read “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo.” This insensitive tweet was the beginning of an onslaught of criticism from a hurt public, angry that such a serious and tragic incident was being used to promote fashion lines. Thankfully, Kenneth Cole took prompt action and quickly apologized, saying that “attempt at humor . . . was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.” Now Cole’s tweets are monitored closely by his PR team. Sometimes a quick apology goes a long way. The public doesn’t want excuses, we appreciate ownership of mistakes and sometimes, taking responsibility is the best thing you can do.
A tweet posted twice to the Smithsonian account in the middle of the day. While this is a rather minor error, it was handled well. Smithsonian responded by posting “Our apologies for the repeated tweets. Our twitter client seems to have the hiccups today!” This clever response was a great way to address a minor faux pas in the social media universe.
When a derogatory comment was posted by an employee to Vodafone’s UK twitter account, initial thoughts were that the account had been hacked. The highly offensive tweet was visible to Vodafone’s 8,800 followers. Vodafone quickly identified what had happened and personally apologized to their followers: "We're really sorry. A severe breach of rules by staff in our building, dealing with that internally. Please keep your faith in us." The ownership of their mistake and transparency from Vodafone is admirable. The company identified the guilty party, took responsibility, addressed the issue (fired the employee) and apologized for their mistake. Sometimes when mistakes happen, ownership of the problem is the best we can do.
Social media accounts can be tricky. There are many different ways to handle blunders when they inevitably come about, and companies like Prosodic (disclaimer: Sterling client) are coming out with new and innovative ways to manage workflows that prevent brands from making these types of public gaffes. While we can’t all use humor to deflect from social media mistakes, sometimes expertly handling a situation by acknowledging mistakes upfront is the best way to address your audience. Getting defensive, deleting posts without explanation, or misleading your followers can have severe backlash. Best to keep a careful eye on your accounts and if you make a mistake, find a way to address the issue honestly (with humor if appropriate) and apologize to your audience.