"Just because that comedian worked well as the voice of the duck in a controlled environment doesn't mean giving him free reign to speak on your behalf in social media is a good idea," says Corcoran. "That's why it's so important not to have just anybody, especially people with no PR and/or customer service skills, with access to those things."
If you can spare the effort and personnel, keep an eye on your profile in various social media, especially those where you can provide official responses to negative feedback. Another option is to consider hiring an outside firm to monitor your online reputation. Third-party reputation management firms can provide both early warnings (to let you know when trouble's brewing) and postmortems (to indicate how effective your cleanup was).
A smaller company can work closely with such a firm, as it would with a regular PR agency. A larger company that doesn't yet have an internal social media management division can make use of an outside agency in the interim, "especially with situations that impact market conditions and stock price," DiMauro says. "But there also needs to be an eye towards organizational integration. For example, if a new product launch is catching heat for a defect, product development needs to participate as they will have the most insight into the issue. This helps lend credibility and authenticity to the response."
What matters first with a social media mistake is responding quickly, being transparent and demonstrating sincerity -- all of which should follow a social gaffe committed in person and in public. Social media, though, introduces complications all its own: How you've been using it all along will also affect your ability to clean up after it.
This is why what comes after the mistake is just as important, if not more so: The chance to learn why it happened in the first place and do something about it. You may find better ways to use social media because of this. If you've been spammy or thoughtless, you need to own up to that. If your audience makes good points about your shortcomings (however badly they phrase them), you need to respond to those too.
Your mother probably told you, "You only get one chance to make a first impression." She might not have been thinking about cleaning up after a mistaken tweet or dealing with a rogue post to your Facebook wall, but she's still right. Because, yes, there is such a thing as bad PR.
Serdar Yegulalp has been writing about computers and information technology for over 15 years for a variety of publications.
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