Love marketing journalism? Apply here to become a full-time associate editor of our sister publication, Marketing Dive.

Explore more: 

How to clean up your social media mess in 5 simple steps

Everyone makes mistakes. Especially with things we don’t quite yet understand. For every social media success story there are 10 social media disasters. No matter how smart you (think you) are with social media, at some point you will make a mess. But if you start planning your clean up now, you can limit the damage and even gain some respect for handling the situation well.

1. Admit your mistake. Humility and honesty are the only things that satiate the social media mob. Don’t try to cover up your mistake, because you can’t. Social media is too public and too real-time to ever take back anything you said. Own up to it and you will take away much of the ammunition others would have been able to use against you.

2. Respond directly and publicly to the most vocal objections. Consumers are not all created equal. Some are more influential than others in both supporting and attacking your brand. Invest the time in figuring out who are the loudest and most damaging of your attackers and respond to their complaints publicly in order to leverage that same influence that was used against you.

3. Give people a channel to vent. People will talk, shout and get angry. You can’t stop it, and you have to acknowledge that fact. But you can try to limit the extent of the damage. Much in the same way we start containment fires to limit the spread of wild fires, try to get some control by giving people a channel to voice their frustration directly to you instead of to everyone they know. It won’t solve the problem, but it might help save the forest.

4. Do something right. It’s human nature to extrapolate a single occurrence into a generalized conclusion. Don’t let this one social media mix-up brand you as a social media ignorant. Do something right, and do it now.

5. Don’t make the same mistake again. Whatever mess you made will eventually pass (and hopefully quicker now that you are prepared). But don’t think that just because you cleaned up the milk the jug is now spill-proof. Analyze what went wrong and why. Learn from your mistake so you never make it again.

Join The Conversation

  • BrettGreene's picture
    Sep 10 Posted 6 years ago BrettGreene

    The best example of this common sense advice, that isn't common to everyone, is how Jeff Bezos handled the Kindle issue of deleting 1984 and some other books.  This is one of the best case study to prove the principals above.


  • Sep 10 Posted 6 years ago Derek (not verified)

    Just as a factory would have an emergency response plan, businesses might do well do develop a 'social media emergency response' plan while they are plotting out their strategy.

    We all want to think it will never happen to us, but every day it happens to somebody...

    Great tips! Especially #2 - responding directly. And quickly.



Webinars On Demand