How to Bounce Back From an Online Gaffe

Advice from UnMarketing’s Scott Stratten


Having an effective social media strategy is essential for most businesses these days, and that of course requires having somebody to manage your social accounts. This of course means that you a relying on someone (or a group of people in some cases) to come up with fun things to post, and to reply to messages and concerns in a professional way. Alas, sometimes people get it wrong. Really, really, wrong.

Even smart people say stupid things online sometimes, but how you deal with it will determine whether that causes problems for your business.

There are many ways to screw up online, but probably the most common ones are when somebody accidentally sends a personal tweet from their company account (really easy to do), or when someone tries to jump on a hashtag or trending topic without really understanding what it was about and ends up tweeting something horribly inappropriate.

The latter was the case for DiGiorno’s Pizza, who in 2014 tweeted the message “#Whyistayed You had pizza” without realizing that the #Whyistayed (as in “why I stayed”) hashtag was all about bringing domestic violence to light. It was a truly terrible faux pas to make, but the brand was quick to try and remedy it.

When this happens, the wrath of the Internet can be brutal, immediate, and cause a firestorm that may make you want to just run and hide, but you absolutely have to deal with your mistakes or else things will only get worse and can cause a lasting negative impact on your brand.

“For every minute something is left unaddressed, it can reach exponentially more people.”

To find out how best to bounce back from these blunders, we spoke with Toronto-based Scott Stratten, an expert in authentic social marketing, and author of UnMarketing, a pretty essential guide to getting things right with your social marketing strategies.

Billy: What’s the first thing to do when you realize that you, or someone that works for you, has committed a major act of online stupidity?

Stratten: Really depends on context. There is a big difference between the Red Cross “getting slizzard” tweet (where an employee tweeted about getting drunk) and the Chevy “Detroit Drivers” tweet (where an employee dropped an F-Bomb).  Both were the same mistake (tweeting from the wrong account) but what was tweeted had huge ramifications for Chevy. Did it offend your customers/advertisers/sponsors?

How fast do you need to deal with the situation?

I don’t think we live in a real-time marketing world, I think we’re at the point of “no-time” marketing. We don’t have time to assess and convene and discuss strategy. The expectation is instant response. For every minute something is left unaddressed, it can reach exponentially more people. This is why you shouldn’t have real-time accounts in places like Twitter and not be monitoring them on a real-time basis.

How do you deal with the wrath of the Internet? What about when people get nasty?

AppSumo just went through that with their Michael J Fox “joke” [which mocked his Parkinson’s disease]. They handled it well. They owned it, apologized and offered a donation to his charity. They also did it on the same day it happened.

Be quick, be sincere and learn from it. Also, ignore the nasty people. You’re not the Jackass Whisperer.

Assess it like any other issue in business. How did it happen? What procedures do we have that can be put in place so it doesn’t happen again? The issue usually is that somebody was a moron. They key here is to hire less morons.

Scott Stratten

What can companies take from the experience?

People react, emotion spreads and most of the time it will go away over time.

How to Bounce Back From an Online Gaffe
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