What to Do When You Commit a Social Media Blunder
Even superstars commit social media blunders.
Recently, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant found himself in a lot of hot water for committing a few embarrassing social media gaffes:
- First, he exercised poor judgment on Twitter by trash-talking his former employer, the Oklahoma City Thunder, including calling out his coach – an action that brought the wrath of the internet down on him.
- At about the same time, he was caught using multiple fake Internet accounts to defend himself against his critics.
His actions also embarrassed the Warriors somewhat, whose name was inevitably mentioned alongside the negative blowback even though the team had nothing to do with his actions.
But Kevin Durant is not the only one committing gaffes, which seemingly happen to brands every day somewhere. In fact, if your brand has an active social media presence, you should assume that someday your name will get dragged through the social media mud:
- A video of one of your employees acting rudely might go viral.
- Someone on your own social media team might publish poorly timed or questionable content.
- An employee might leak an internal email that probably should not have been written in the first place.
You’ve seen it all and more. So have we. How do you respond? Here are a few tips:
The moment you see something going wrong (you do have someone on your team actively monitoring your brand name, right?), convene a team charged with taking quick action. A social media crisis is all-hands-on-deck time. Your response team should do many things quickly and simultaneously, such as:
- Contacting parties involved with the gaffe to get their account of what happened.
- Involving your legal team to assess your legal vulnerability depending on the problem,
- Having a PR expert appointed to be your official voice to communicate your response.
Too often, big brands make bad situation even worse by coming across as non-caring and inattentive – problems that could have been avoided had the company responded rapidly.
As you respond to the problem, let the public know in a very social way that you’re on the case. Even if you are still gathering the facts and are unprepared to make an official statement, at least let your social followers know you are aware a problem has occurred and that you’re getting to the bottom of the issue. If a problem is patently outrageous – say, an employee is caught on camera acting in an unacceptable way – you’re probably going to need to speak out even before you’ve had a chance to get the employee’s side of the story and to verify the facts (“We are disturbed by what we saw on this video. Rest assured we are getting to the bottom of what happened and will follow up immediately. Stay tuned.”
Contain the Issue
If you represent a large brand with a very public executive team, you should assume that they’ll be asked to comment on an unfolding social media gaffe. Coach them to avoid commenting other than to acknowledge that your company is taking action and cares deeply about its customers and its reputation. Seeing your name dragged through the mud can be excruciating, and it’s tempting to take the gaffe personally as you see customers on Twitter, Facebook, or other socials attacking your company name. Coach your executives to exercise calm and discretion, especially if they have high-profile, popular social accounts.
Kevin Durant took accountability for his mistakes at a TechCrunch Disrupt Conference, where he was coincidentally scheduled to appear in the wake of his social media firestorm. At the event he owned up to his boorish behavior and apologized. He did not utter one of those half-hearted “If I offended someone” or “Sorry if you were offended” remarks. He acknowledged his actions were wrong, period.
Also, it’s interesting to note that the Golden State Warriors themselves did not comment. Good move. Durant’s mistakes, while embarrassing, resulted from poor management of his personal social accounts. Yes, the Warriors name did get associated with the problem, and yes, he does represent the team. But in this case, the team commenting might have escalated a fairly petty issue that will become yesterday’s news quickly.
On the other hand, an employee doing something truly egregious, such as violating the law or the company’s code of conduct, will more than likely demand the employer to get involved.
Plan for the Future
Assess how you responded to the problem, note what you did well and not so well, and make sure you have a game plan for future gaffes – because they will happen. Make sure you have a well-documented escalation plan and that it covers the fast-changing social landscape. (Does your plan cover Snapchat and other rapidly evolving platforms?)
How do you address social media gaffes? What do you avoid doing? Meanwhile, contact True Interactive to discuss how to buid your social media reputation. We’re here to help.