How To Handle A Social Media Disaster

Airplane In The SkyIt can happen to any brand.

Any size. Any location. It doesn’t take much.

It could be as simple as a grammar mistake. It could also be something as serious as an insult or an insensitive post. Or could even be something like a hack with vulgarity or worse.

A social media disaster.

It seems that one happens every other day. Some on a small scale, but we definitely notice the worldwide brands that go through them. It seems like everybody pays attention.

And it could even happen on a personal level. You fire off a tweet or update on Facebook and offend some of your followers, friends or family.

What do you do?

Here are a few steps people take that seem to work best…

Take A Breath

I think this is the one that might be most important.

There is pressure to take quick action. Some people want you to do something right away.

I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t make good decisions right away. Especially in a stressful situation. When you’re stressed you’re usually not thinking clearly.

And in a situation where something has gone wrong you’re probably not thinking about all the possible consequences.

So the first step is to just take a breath.

Step away from social media. Let it sit for a bit. Take some time to gather your thoughts and don’t make it worse by making a snap decision.

It seems like brands and people make things worse most of the time by following up a disaster with more disaster.

Consult With Select Confidants

Most people have one or two people that are honest with them all the time. In this situation you want to find that person and talk over the situation. They’ll help you work through your thoughts.

If you have a plan for your next move to smooth over the situation in a way that’s good for all parties they will help you see the other perspectives.

And that’s important because you’ll see that many people in this situation only think about themselves. They only worry about how to make things go away. But that doesn’t always align with what others want to see and feel.

Talking it over with a person you trust will help you see the situation from other perspectives.

Don’t consult with too many people. The more people you have the more convoluted the next move will be. It’ll be watered down and nobody will really feel that good about it.


Once you’ve had time to unwind, think about the situation and talk it over with someone you trust it’s the time to respond.

It could be a few hours. It could be about a day or so. Maybe two days. I wouldn’t wait much longer than that.

Some brands have waited longer and it’s worked out just fine, but it seems like responding within a day is about the norm in the case of a social media disaster.

What should you respond with?

The best ones I’ve seen are the ones that just show genuine feelings of being sorry. Admit your fault in the situation. Explain what happened. Don’t push the blame on others.

Keep it to the point. Don’t ramble on and on and repeat yourself. Just straight apology.

Also, try to avoid promises of what you’ll do in the future. That can get you into more trouble. You can make plans for changing in the future, but you don’t need to tell people about it.

You’ll show them with your actions in the future.

Oh yeah, don’t say, “I’m sorry you were offended…” That’s not an apology.

Assess & Fix

This takes place behind the scenes. Assess the situation. Determine how the disaster occurred and look for ways to prevent it from happening in the future.

You probably do this all the time with your business. Something happens. Mistakes are made and you look for ways to avoid it in the future.

Will it always work? No, but you have to look for ways to prevent things from occurring again.

People have forgiven brands for all kinds of things. Deep down we know that we’re flawed and that others are flawed. We’re very willing to forgive if people genuinely seem willing to change and better themselves.

Take The Long-Term View

When you’re making change, make it for the long-term.

When you get into short-term thinking with social media it can backfire on you. It can even lead to disasters of all kinds.

Take the long-term view on building an audience. Take a long-term view of the type of content you’re posting. Remember that people may come back and view it years down the road.

Final Thought

Social media disasters will test your strength. You’ll feel temptation to fix things right away. You’ll feel temptation to make promises. Your strength will show in your ability to properly assess the situation from all angles including those outside of your own.

Take the time to see your fault in the eyes of others. Take time to come up with a proper response. Take time to go over the response with someone you trust.

Act. Then move on. Move on in a way that improves your company for the future.

That’s the best way to handle a disaster.

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