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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Here’s how leaders can avoid social media missteps

A poorly-crafted social media post can quickly spiral out of control, so it’s important for leaders to have a strategy for moving forward.

Here’s how leaders can avoid social media missteps
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

Before posting something under the company’s name, it’s important to ensure that the tone and message of the post are in line with what you want to communicate. Enlisting the help of a PR professional or reading posts out loud to a group are great ways to make sure that the message you’re trying to communicate is the right one. But even then, it’s possible that a leader’s message can be taken the wrong way or accidentally miss the mark.

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When this happens, leaders must take immediate action both internally and externally. Below, eight Fast Company Executive Board members share the first action leaders should take under these circumstances and how to avoid similar situations in the future.

1. OWN THE MISTAKE AND CLARIFY.

If a leader missteps on social media, own it and clarify.  If an apology is needed, issue an authentic one that includes taking responsibility along with making amends. To minimize risk, leaders and prominent voices that represent a company should be trained in digital responsibility and have a clear strategy for their public digital presence that includes key messaging, tone, and tactics. – Lisa Bichsel, Bichsel Medical Marketing Group

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2. APOLOGIZE SINCERELY AND TAKE ACTION.

The first thing a company should do after a social media misstep is to take ownership, apologize sincerely, and outline any action that will be taken to make things right. To avoid future missteps (as much as possible), make sure your company has clear social media guidelines and someone who is regularly reviewing social media posts. – Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP

3. RESPOND QUICKLY.

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Businesses need to keep an eye on their social media accounts and monitor them constantly so that when something goes out of hand, they are super quick to react. In the social media world, you have 12 hours to respond, apologize, or delete the post before things go really bad. So pay attention to the notifications and be proactive in that matter. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

4. PROVIDE CONSISTENT MEDIA TRAINING.

Our team leaders speak all the time regarding our social media presence, both from a company and personal standpoint. Everyone has their own personality and should be free to express it, but there needs to be an awareness of how it might not only impact the brand of the company but a personal brand as well. We do training and talk through things in an effort to avoid missteps. – Richard RB Botto, Stage 32

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5. SHOW GENUINE REMORSE AND MAKE CHANGES.

Mistakes happen, and your customers by and large will understand that if you remain genuine. Apologize if the situation calls for it, but most importantly own your mistake and immediately make an effort to change. Customers can sniff out corporate-speak from a mile away, and they are tired of it. So show genuine remorse and ask for forgiveness. You may be surprised at how quickly you will be forgiven. – Jason Hall, Five Channels

6. REWORK YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PROCESSES.

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The first step is to identify how the communication breakdown occurred. Next, you should create a workflow process that includes having multiple people double-check your social media copy before posts are published. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

7. CREATE SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES.

The first thing a company needs to do is to address the leader directly and ask them to stop creating more content. Many people create provocative posts and then double down with their replies. You need to put a stop to that right away. Prevent such events in the future by creating guidelines telling employees that there are consequences for such actions including termination.   – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

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8. DEVELOP A NEW DIGITAL VOICE.

Immediately respond in a thoughtful and honest manner. Apologize if need be. The way to avoid this is to ensure that your leadership team understands the correct social media messaging strategy and how to develop their digital voice to align with the values and goals of the organization. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

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