Norton Seal A company's social media team discussing strategy.

Your Business

Making Up For a Social Media Mistake

Being honest and saying sorry goes a long way.

Social media has leveled the playing field, giving small businesses greater access to millions of potential customers. While it’s a marketing bonanza for those with limited budgets, mistakes in cyberspace sometimes can be costly.

Just ask Mike Catania, co-founder of, a site that publishes information on coupons and deals.

Catania says in 2013 his social media team was posting content with solid results leading up to Black Friday. But an edgy post that coincided with Veteran’s Day went too far, offending current and potential customers.

“The backlash was quick and powerful,” says Catania. “We lost about 300 Facebook followers as a result, so between their cost of acquisition, plus the loss of any potential earnings of the 3,500-plus visitors that saw it, it was a steep price to pay for five minutes of thoughtlessness.”

There’s a silver lining to this story, though.

“We tried to make things right as best we could,” Catania explains. “Since the meltdown we’ve promoted Coupons for Troops (Troopons), an organization that can redeem expired manufacturer’s coupons for military families.”

In the fast-paced world of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, sometimes things can backfire, even if your business has the best of intentions. Here’s how to come back after a social media misstep.

Apologize. “This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many companies try to cover up their mistake,” says Garrett Mehrguth, CEO of Irvine, California-based digital marketing firm Directive Consulting. “The most important thing to do immediately following a social media mistake is to own up to it.”

Respond to the backlash. “Reaching out and responding to people commenting in a personalized way can go a long way in rebuilding bridges that have been burned,” Mehrguth explains. “You can say, ‘It was a rare mistake, but a terrible one. I am so sorry to anyone who thought I was making light of a serious subject.’”

Proactively protect your brand and integrity. Develop social media guidelines to prevent social media blunders from occurring. That’s the recommendation of Sébastien Dupéré, CEO of Dupray, a leading seller of steam cleaners and steam irons. When he was building his social media following, he recalls having a Twitter conversation about how to clean up a mess if someone gets sick on your carpet. “Being a part of the steam cleaning industry, our company had a certain ‘expertise’ in this area,” says Dupéré. “I thought it would be funny to introduce some photographic evidence into the conversation.”

Not quite. The company was blocked by 70-80 followers. Dupray now has a list of guidelines when it comes to tweeting and a second pair of eyes sees all tweets before they are sent.

Make reparations. “If your blunder impacts others, make amends, whether it be a discount, a donation or another kind gesture,” says Dupéré. “Forgiveness from clients and potential customers is key.” While a social media misstep can be far-reaching, it’s an error you can recover from if you face it head-on.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” says Mehrguth. “It’s how you respond to that mistake that separates success from failure.”

How would you rate this article?

Related Topics: Employees , Marketing , Business Growth