Ugh. You’ve really done it this time. You have managed to anger a group of people who only yesterday, liked you. You must be in Junior High, right? Wrong. You’re a social media manager.

With today’s technology and convenient app account management, it is easier than ever to post to the wrong account. And because it’s social media, it can spread like wild fire and suddenly your tiny mistake becomes worldwide fodder. How this mistake affects your business, is directionally proportional to how you respond, both to the employee and to the mistake.

On a cold day in February in 2011, the Red Cross sent out this tweet: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas touch beer…when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd” Needless to say, that was a mistake, sent to 270,000 followers. But, what could have become a PR disaster became an opportunity for positive PR, a blood drive and even donations. The Red Cross handled it well in that they didn’t overreact but responded with humor tweeting “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”


Wendy Harman, social media director for the Red Cross, says the post was no big deal. “We are an organization that deals with life-changing disasters and this wasn’t one of them.” On the flip side of this tweet, Dogfish Brewery fans who appreciated the Red Cross’ response to the mistake, used the opportunity to launch a fundraising and blood donation drive using the hashtag: #gettngslizzerd. Once the VP of Marketing saw the rogue tweet, she re-tweeted to their 49,000 followers and helped turn it into a rallying cause. Breweries and pubs in many of the 30 states that distribute Dogfish beer launched beer-for-blood offers. All in all, it turned out well for everyone involved and The Red Cross handled the situation well.

Once you understand how a disaster can occur, you can limit the potential that it will happen to you by defining a social media PR disaster recovery plan. When it comes to your own online presence, how would you handle a social media disaster?


Here are 4 simple guidelines to help you get started.

  1. Be honest. Be honest with your followers in your online communications, responses and activities. Dishonesty will be discovered and is much harder to bounce back from than an honest mistake.


  1. Keep it in perspective. Yes, it was probably embarrassing but can it be used as an opportunity to leave a positive impression? Can you make people laugh and show them that your brand/product has a good sense of humor, cares about its employees and can laugh at itself? Go ahead and show some authenticity in your response and you will be surprised by the positive outcome.Social-Media-Disasters2
  1. Authenticity. People love this. This can be your brands greatest social media asset if it is consistent and genuine.
  1. Social media is by definition, social and can be one of your best customer service tools if managed correctly. Create guidelines for your team to follow and provide customer service training on how to deal with negative situations. Set clear expectations so your team knows what they can or can not say. Monitor your online reputation and be proactive.

Remember, mistakes can and will happen but how you respond to it can go a long way towards a quick recovery and leaving a lasting, positive impression.