The Not-So-Sweet Tweet

April 11th, 2012

Recovering from social media blunders

Social media is legendary for its speed and transparency, but that also means your mistakes can spread like wildfire. Anyone managing more than one social profile or using a third-party client like TweetDeck or HootSuite has felt their stomach lurch when they think they accidentally posted something personal on the wrong account.

If a mistake happens, being upfront in dealing with the clean up, handling it quickly, honestly and with humility, is a good way to start recovering.

One of the best examples I’ve seen is how the Red Cross handled a mistake made by one of their staffers who tweeted on the wrong account. It was certainly a cringe-worthy moment when this tweet went out:




But instead of blowing the tweet out of proportion, the Red Cross responded very quickly with this tweet:




The Red Cross didn’t panic. They responded with a bit of humor while acknowledging the mistake immediately. They apologized and even got in a message about driving safely.

That tweet turned into an opportunity for Red Cross when Dogfish Head jumped on the hashtag and asked Dogfish Head fans to donate to the Red Cross, providing a link and using the hashtag #gettngslizzerd.

If a mistake happens, apologize. Don’t try to justify. And be very honest in your response.

Six keys to a great apology.

  1. Address the issue quickly. Silence is not an option.
  2. Even if it is not directly your fault, apologize for it anyway.
  3. Intent matters; people are more likely to forgive an honest mistake.
  4. Identify the steps that are being (or will be) taken to fix the problem.
  5. Pick the right medium for you to be most effective. A well-written apology trumps a badly delivered video message.
  6. Continuously monitor all social and non-social channels so you can continue to address the issue further, if needed.

At the end of the day, remember: you’re only human. The world will not end because of a less-than-perfect social media message. With a little humor, and a bit of bravery, your mistake could reveal a more human side to your brand – and lead to more sales.


Social media blunders run the gamut. There are harmless ones, like accidentally posting a funny video on the wrong account. But there are also slips that can do some damage. Of these, there are largely five main types:

Inappropriate opinion – when you react to something that you should have thought out a little better.

The insensitive statement – this can cause serious damage to a brand, particularly when it’s about a tragic current event.

Kenneth Cole’s tweet, following the protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, resulted in negative PR for the brand:

This got Gottfried fired as spokesperson for Aflac:


The early release– when something is mistakenly announced too early.

The New York Giants official website accidentally announced the winner of Super Bowl XLVI more than 24 hours before Sunday’s big game:


The false reward –offering a deal or prize you can’t deliver. For example, several Canadian companies recently got in trouble when they couldn’t honor the deals from group-buying sites.


The hack – when someone breaks into your account. This is both the most dangerous and the easiest to recover from. Just make sure you look at your security to prevent it from happening again.

Fox News was hacked on July 4, 2011:

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