SOS: save our social

recovering from a social media disaster

In our digital era, it’s essential for brands to be active on social media. That being said, social media does bring a certain amount of risk. Whilst its ability to quickly connect people is its biggest selling point, it can also be its greatest downfall. Have you ever heard that there’s no such thing as bad press? Well, unfortunately that’s not strictly true and a social media faux pas can do some serious damage to a brand.

At some point in your life, I imagine you’ve had the distinct displeasure of hearing some condescending soul uttering the words “fail to prepare and prepare to fail”. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend being the guy that says this smug little cliché out loud, there is a frustrating amount of truth in the message. As such, if you’re a well-established business that’s active on social media, you should have a crisis plan in place. And it should look a little something like this:

 Damage control

It goes without saying that you should delete the offending post in order to contain the matter and to limit the damage but don’t act like nothing has happened. In an age of smartphones, you can bet that someone has screenshot your faux pas so there’s no point denying it and causing further distrust of your brand.

Also, that witty tweet that you’d scheduled for #ThrowbackThursday probably isn’t going to go down too well when you’re in the midst of a social media crisis. Make sure you pause any scheduled or automated updates or you’ll be up that all too famous creek without a paddle! Remember the Tesco horse meat scandal back in 2013? They fell victim to a questionable automated tweet during the scandal, which appeared to make light of the situation. We imagine there were some red faces in the office that day.

tesco hit the hay

Own up

We don’t want to get all Jack Bauer on you, but the first 24 hours are crucial. People will be waiting for your response, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be judging you for it. Remaining silent or being too slow to communicate with the public will do far more harm than good. As soon as you remove the offending post, an acknowledgement of the incident should be issued straight away so it doesn’t look like you’re hiding anything.


Despite what Elton John thinks, sorry shouldn’t be the hardest word to say. Consider the reasons why your followers are upset so that your apology is sincere. Don’t try and defend what you have done, just own up to it and issue a sincere apology. Whilst you should act in a timely manner, don’t react with raw emotion or anger. Whatever the reason for what happened, your brand has let down your customers and they deserve empathy, not excuses.

Grit your teeth

Social media is constantly moving, if you’re a big brand then you’ll be inundated with tweets and messages that either mock your blunder or worse, highlight the disappointment of your customers. You need to be able to keep up with these messages, and a social media professional will be able to help you do this. Each and every person should feel like their opinion is being heard, so aim to send a reply to each person that contacts you. Simply apologise and ask that they escalate any further issues through an email or phone call so that you can take the matter offline and begin the process of rebuilding trust.

Whilst the angry comments can be hard to read, you shouldn’t delete them. People are entitled to their opinions after all. That being said, any post that is threatening, abusive or contains profanities can be removed. Unless someone is trolling you, don’t block users as it can make you look like you’re burying your head in the sand.


As a marketing agency, it’s probably surprising to hear that we don’t recommend launching a new advertising campaign straight after a PR or social media disaster. Whilst some agencies will argue that it creates a fresh slate, we disagree. After a social media disaster, your brand is deemed untrustworthy. If you try to quickly brush it under the rug and distract your audience, you can further damage your credibility and brand reputation.

Instead you need to focus on devising a relevant strategy that deals with the issue at hand. In some situations, humour can work so make light-hearted fun of yourself for the issue. Of course, if your faux pas was more serious then this isn’t an option. The best thing you can do is to assess everything that has happened, collate all of the facts and ride the storm out. When the initial backlash is over, you can then start to think about a new strategy to move forward.

If you’ve recently experienced a social media slip-up, get in touch with us to see how we can get you back on track.

Categories: Digital Marketing

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