In the early days of my social media career, I worked with smaller clients who were worried and reluctant. They knew they wanted to be seen and heard in the big, wide world of the web, but even though they hired a professional to navigate, they still feared it would swallow them whole. They worried they would be exposed to the competition. They were concerned about how they would manage their reputations. Mostly, though, they were afraid of making mistakes. I learned to assure them that they would certainly make blunders and bloopers. Then I assured them there are ways to mitigate them. Sometimes you even come out better than had you avoided a mess in the first place.
Whether you use social media for business or personal reasons, it always comes down to communication and interaction among actual people. And people make mistakes. When those mistakes happen online, they may get cached, screen captured, and ridiculed.
The bad news is the record may be “permanent.” The good news is the damage is not. People tend to move on quickly, either because they are forgiving or they get distracted. Either way, the attention will always move on to someone else.
Some fear making a social media mistake because representing your company or brand is a huge responsibility. It reflects on you, your coworkers, and your customers. It may affect the company’s reputation and, ultimately, the bottom line. You can avoid mishaps by limiting your company’s online presence. If you never share or post, you avoid making mistakes. But you also miss out on the benefits of making your personality shine, interacting with customers, and showing off your human side.
A better solution is to do the best you can and use good judgment. However, when a problem arises, deal with it calmly, professionally, honorably, and as quickly as you can.
Assess the damage.
There are varying degrees of severity. Did you mistakenly ‘like’ a photo shared by your competition? Did you say something negative about your job while set to public? Did you share the j/k version of a blog post on the company page?
Recover with grace.
Delete the problematic material first and as best you can. Apologize publicly, if necessary. Apologize privately when possible. Admit your mistake. You may even want to make fun of yourself. Then move on as quickly as possible by posting about something else.
Don’t delete your account or even disappear when the going gets rough. Acknowledge your humanity through honesty and humor.
Learn from your mistakes.
Forget about the embarrassment and the repercussions. But not the lesson. Like life, business can be messy and complicated. But taking risks can be exciting and rewarding. Overcoming embarrassment and adversity builds resilience and strength. If handled the right way, we gain wisdom with every mishap. Of course, when you’re in the thick of it, it does not always feel that way. Sometimes the best you can do is remember that “this too shall pass.” Then blog about it tomorrow.