Tweet Apology The Social Media Mea Culpa

7 Tips To Help Steer Your Business During A Social Media Crisis

Is a tweet apology, the social media mea culpa, a suitable response to public gaffs and inappropriate comments? Before you answer, realize the ostrich approach of sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the problem is no longer an option in today’s social media wired world. This is a world where the average Internet user spends over one fifth of their online time on social media networks according to Nielsen.

While Twitter and other social media platforms can distribute your words of regret quickly, widely and painlessly, generally it’s best if the person who misspoke apologizes directly to the wronged party as soon as possible in as personal a way as possible. Depending on the parties involved, acknowledgement may be needed from a more senior corporate representative, like when you did something wrong as a child and your parents had to accompany you to reinforce your apology.

For example, after his band played an inappropriate introductory song for Michele Bachmann’s appearance on his show, Jimmy Fallon apologized via Twitter to his over 4.5 million followers. While Bachmann requested and received a public apology from NBC, at the time of this post, the YouTube clip has been viewed over 275,000 times.  

Here are seven tips to help your business navigate a social media mea culpa.

  1. Monitor all media channels including social media to ensure that you’re on top of what’s being said. You need information to react quickly and effectively. To this end, monitor your brand names, product categories, senior management and prime competitors. With today’s 24/7 news cycle, remember everyone’s always watching what you do and it helps to have a crisis management plan ready. (Here’s a 12 point real time PR checklist.)
  2. Respond to any issues or potential ones quickly. In today’s socially connected world, timeliness matters. The longer you wait in hopes the problem will magically go away, the more likely that those wronged, your prospects and customers, and the general public to believe you’re guilty.
  3. Acknowledge the issues and the feelings of those involved. Treat those who feel wronged with respect. Don’t try to justify your actions by making light of the situation or making fun of those who were hurt by your organization’s words or actions. Understand they take this matter seriously.
  4. Be polite and human in your response. Like other social media communications, act and sound like a real person, not a sanitized corporate spokesperson. People like to deal with other people not computer generated output. Your response, regardless of format, must sound like that of an individual.
  5. Apologize for any problems you or those associated with your organization caused or appeared to initiate.  With social media, consumers and the public may associate activity with your organization not directly related to the issue at hand. Remember it’s your customers and the public’s perception of the issue that matters. Don’t make them appear to be the bad guy.
  6. Choose the appropriate platform to deliver and distribute your message. In most cases, it’s best to apologize using the same channel where the issue occurred. It’s better to err by being more personal and private about the situation. While a social media apology is quicker and can have broader reach, especially if you’re a public figure,  first say your sorry and express regret at your actions either face-to-face or via a real time phone conversation.
  7. Answer social media interactions in a straightforward manner. Since the conversation can continue to live on social media platforms, you must respond calmly and appropriately. Don’t get mad at the public for being upset. Be present and answer comments where necessary.

If you’ve said or done something that’s gotten people upset, say you’re sorry as soon as possible so people don’t get riled up over your lack of response. Where appropriate use more personal communications vehicles than social media, but continue to monitor the situation to show that you’re socially aware and engaged.

Is there anything else that you’d add to this list? If so, what would you include and why?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Here’s a related article.

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