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Be prepared – social media slip-ups can surprise anyone

The nature of social media is fast-paced, interactive and permanent. All of these characteristics are potential pitfalls for brands using social media for promotion. As we detailed in our earlier blog post ‘Top Twitter Faux Pas of 2011’, even household names have received criticism for social media blunders.

The fact remains that prevention is of course better than cure. Having an internal system that involves double-checking all social media content will filter out the vast majority of simple errors, from spelling mistakes to broken links. Nevertheless, it is impossible to account entirely for human error. It is inevitable that some rogue posts will slip through the net however tightly it is knitted.

It is how you deal with the error that counts.

A rigorous monitoring system will allow you to spot mistakes quickly, giving you the chance to act before it becomes a full-blown PR issue. Many mistakes, although obviously not ideal, are essentially harmless such as spelling errors, broken links or accidentally posting a message intended for personal use. If handled correctly the social media community are likely to be sympathetic towards you. The American Red Cross demonstrate this expertly by addressing a misplaced tweet about #gettingslizzered with humour. ‘The Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys’.

However, there are some situations that are serious enough to merit offline action. This is usually where professional judgement is lacking; as in disgraced U.S congressmen Anthony Weiner. Weiner was expected to run for Mayor of New York until his inappropriate online conversations with a former porn actress and other women were revealed. Weiner had hoped the initial furore would pass but has since admitted that this is ‘impossible’. This is a testimony to the permanency of the digital world.

Clearly the consequences of social media mistakes reflect the seriousness of the error. In most cases a good strategy will prevent a PR crisis. The key is to identify the mistake quickly and to let your judgement of the situation define your response. There are few situations which can’t be addressed with a genuine apology.



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