Five Must-Read Tips for Avoiding Brand Gaffes in the Social Age

Posted on



Michiko Morales

Twenty minutes.  That’s how long it takes a story to break in today’s ever-connected world. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the Internet at large, what used to be a two- to three-hour delay before a story hit is now down to the length of a good power nap.

While this connectivity is great for keeping up-to-date with current events, it can spell disaster for brands that can’t keep up. All it takes is just one misstep, and you or your client can be the next brand to go viral – for all the wrong reasons.

Here are five things to keep in mind to avoid a social faux pas that can land your brand in hot water.

  1. The Internet never forgets. So, if you don’t want it to live forever, don’t put it out there. Everything on the Internet lasts indefinitely, even if there’s no longer an active link. Screenshots help everything live on in perpetuity, as do cached versions of websites. While you might have deleted a tweet or removed a webpage, someone somewhere will find a way to recover it.
  2. Personal brands and corporate brands are very closely linked. Be sure to maintain management as well as company reputations. The names associated with your brand often become synonymous with the brand itself. Think Oprah, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson. While you might not be managing personalities that large, a misstep by one of the company executives – a la Rupert Murdoch’s recent Twitter rants or Donald Sterling’s vitriolic voicemails – can still torpedo your corporate image.
  3. Admitting you don’t know something isn’t a bad thing… especially when considering the alternative. How does that saying go – “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” If you don’t know an answer, simply say “Let me get back to you on that,” or stay out of the conversation altogether. My favorite recent example, while not a social gaffe, is courtesy of Idaho Rep. Vito Barbieri, who proved you don’t have to know how the female reproductive system works in order to legislate it. Just stay in your lane.
  4. Admit your mistakes and move on. When you do slip up (and yes, this will happen), own up to it and move on. Don’t try to cover up any missteps, especially if they’ve garnered attention. Apologize sincerely and make reparations when the situation calls for it. Adjust policies behind the scenes, if needed. Did someone accidently send a personal tweet from the corporate account? Were credentials not changed after an employee was let go? Learn from these mistakes to ensure these gaffes aren’t repeated.
  5. TOP TIP: SLOW DOWN! No one likes to be scooped. But taking an extra minute to re-read your social posts and ensure they’re being sent from the right account (particularly personal v. corporate) before hitting send can save yourself and your brand some heartache, right KitchenAid?
    Misspellings can make you go viral in an instant; just ask Sephora.  Look into a hashtag that you’re trying to hack to make sure you’re not being insensitive (ahem, DiGiorno). And just don’t be rude.

News travels quickly, and keeping our companies top-of-mind means that we often take to social media to get in on the conversation. But this breakneck speed sets the stage for missteps that can be hard to bounce back from. So think before you post. We promise you won’t miss out on newsworthiness by taking time to proofread or dig a little deeper.

From the Blog

Leah Nurik