Social media gaffes: They can happen to anyone

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By Megan Totka

Missteps are increasingly becoming a part of the landscape for business social media. While unfortunate, those of us who run social media pages as businesses are still only human – and make human mistakes.

Some of these gaffes have more dire consequences than others. One of the most recent posts-gone-wrong was on the night of the first presidential debate. This particular post came from the KitchenAid brand and quickly became top business news. KitchenAid tweeted:

“Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics”

Many people found this tweet to be rather offensive. It was shocking, too, coming from such a neutral brand as KitchenAid. We don’t typically expect the company that manufactures stand mixers to have a particularly strong political view. This tweet was broadcast to about 24,000 of KitchenAid’s followers before it was deleted from the company page.

While this was a big misstep by the social media team at KitchenAid, they did work quickly to remedy the situation. The CEO of the company tweeted a sincere apology shortly after pulling the original tweet. She also assured followers that the staff member who posted the tweet was immediately removed from the social media team. She explained in an email to Mashable that the person who wrote the tweet thought they were posting under their personal Twitter account when it was in fact the KitchenAid company account, and that the employee in question would no longer be tweeting for the company.

This brings to light a common issue – how to manage the line between personal and professional social media participation. While the post in question was accidental, other companies should take heed – it can happen to anyone.

Startup companies should consider social media missteps such as this when beginning to construct a plan for their social media departments or managers. It is a good idea to have at least one pair of eyes other than the writer’s look over social media posts before they are posted to a company page. This is particularly wise when it comes to longer pieces, such as blog entries, but having a system of checks and balances even for tweets and Facebook posts is prudent. Ideally the person in charge of social media posts should have another person, or several, who will review their content. In this case, another person checking over the work of the original poster would have saved a potentially costly mistake from being published in the first place, and it may have saved the member of the social media team their job.

Small businesses or startup companies may not have the staff or resources to have several people read over social media or blog posts before they are published. However, small businesses should consider that this could become a costly problem down the road if mistakes are made in their social media and blog contributions. This could be remedied by having another employee, who is perhaps not a dedicated social media team member, review content as it is posted. This way, any issues can be seen and addressed quickly. Even top employees, such as the CEO or managers, could take on this task until the company is more established.

How companies handle social media gaffes is critical. A quick deletion of the offending post can help a company save face, but the double-edged sword of the social media world is that it is instant. No matter how quickly you can delete, someone saw. Reviewing a post before it is published is a better course of action than a swift delete.

The moral of the story? Be as careful as possible when posting to your business’s blog and social media channels. And if human error occurs, do everything you can to make it right as quickly as possible.

Image: BusinessBlog

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for U.S. ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and their own Chamber of Commerce.

/// COMMENTS

One Comment »
  • Nick Stamoulis

    October 24, 2012 9:21 am

    There have been many instances of people accidentally posting on behalf of a business when they thought they were posting from a personal account. It really comes down to just being careful and double checking that you are using the correct account. Having a second pair of eyes check each post is a good idea.

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