Do you need to formally apologize for social media slip-ups? - SmartBrief

All Articles Marketing Do you need to formally apologize for social media slip-ups?

Do you need to formally apologize for social media slip-ups?

3 min read


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week, we asked: How would you respond if someone in your organization posted rogue content to your organization’s social media accounts?

  • Correct the mistake, and issue an apology: 41.85%
  • Handle the matter internally, and make no public mention of it: 20.11%
  • Delete it or correct it, but make no further public mention of it: 18.48%
  • Leave the offending content up, but talk to the community about the post: 17.39%
  • No response at all: 2.17%

Organizations are under a tremendous amount of pressure to protect their brand’s online image from rogue actors. And the truth is, no matter how good your social media policy is, no matter how well you hire or how closely you guard the key to your organization’s social media presence, there’s still a tiny chance that someone is going to say something he or she shouldn’t. And if that day comes for you, what will you do next?

SmartBrief on Social Media readers seem to be torn on the question, with more than 40% giving answers that involve making no public response to the mishap, while a majority would take the time to address followers after a rogue post.

The standard line about social media best practices is, “Well, it depends on your organization …” But here, I think the kind of mistake in question is even more important. If you accidentally put out a tweet with some enormous grammatical error and realize it right away, no one is going to fault you for deleting the tweet and reposting a corrected message without otherwise acknowledging it.

But most of the time, when we’re talking about rogue content, we’re not talking about content that was posted incorrectly. We’re talking about content that should not have gone up at all. To that end, I propose a two-pronged test to determine whether you need to issue a formal correction, apology or some other kind of statement.

  1. Does the post contain factual inaccuracies? I’m not talking about only being off-brand. I mean you posted something saying an event is this Saturday when it’s really being held Friday. People are making decisions based on information you provide, so you have a responsibility to make sure your info is good. If you make a mistake, own up and let people know you goofed.
  2. Did the material offend or upset people unintentionally? Some organizations go out of their way to seek controversy. If your last post was meant to challenge people and you’re prepared to handle the blow back, then by all means, don’t let me stop you. But if you used profanity in the heat of the moment or sent a tweet out from the wrong account and your accidental message hurt feelings, then you need to be prepared to apologize sincerely. Be honest about what happened. Don’t pretend you were hacked.

The rest of the time, you can get away with handling boo-boos internally or making a quiet change to that blog post. But when feelings are accidentally hurt or you accidentally put out bad information, it’s important to be as big, bold and transparent as possible when addressing the issue. Your fans will respect you more for it in the long run.