Bouncing Back: How to Recover from a Social Media Screw-Up

verything was going right. You constructed a bullet-proof framework, methodically planned out every milestone, readied the marketing troops for action, prepped the balloon drop and chilled the bubbly—by all accounts, you were primed and ready for social media campaign success.

Then, the unthinkable happened… your campaign fizzled out faster than the bubbles in a warm glass of champagne. Now what?

Free guide: Don’t neglect your pre-campaign audience research. Download our free guide, The Pre-Targeting Advantage, and learn the best ways to reach your key audience.

Immediate Social Action

“To err is human” – Alexander Pope

Acknowledge the Mistake
The nature of social media has conditioned users expect a certain level of transparency from businesses, especially in the wake of a failure or a mistake. Your followers and others will be watching your social accounts waiting for your reaction. The best action you can take when a slipup occurs is to acknowledge it ASAP. By acknowledging your blunder quickly, you are positioning your company to control the conversation around the issue. Even if you’re not entirely sure what the mistake was, simply say that you’re aware of the matter and are currently investigating it.

Collect Data
The next action to take after you have acknowledged your mishap is to collect as much information about your failure as possible. Pull all of the analytics you have available, research what outside forces may have negatively affected your campaign, and re-evaluate the tools you used—were they the right tools for the job? Retrace and document your exact execution. The more you understand about what went wrong and why, the easier it will be to fix the problems and ensure that you won’t make the same mistake/s again.

Meet with Your Team
After you have thoroughly researched the issue, meet with your team and hold a debrief where you review the research and brainstorm possible reasons why the campaign went awry. Be sure to include everyone who was involved, as well as some outside folks. The campaign team can give detailed explanations of how the plan unfolded, and the outsiders may be able to give a new and important perspective on the issue.

Don’t Censor Feedback
Never, EVER censor negative feedback. It makes your brand look disingenuous and that lack of transparency can hurt your brand. It can also exacerbate an already painful mess-up by projecting the image that you are not willing to own your mistakes. Just don’t do it, no matter how tempting.

Accept That Campaigns Don’t Always Go to Plan
It can be easy to sink into a self-deprecating spiral when a plan that you worked very hard on doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, and that goes double when the plan flat out fails. However, social media can be tough to navigate. Unpredictable variables can creep in at any moment, without warning, and throw a good campaign off course. Take a few deep breaths, hold your head up high, and move forward.

Fixing the Failure

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal” – Winston Churchill

Be Transparent about Your Fix
Acknowledging a mistake is the right first step, but it is by no means the last step. Give your followers proof that you are fixing the issue, be transparent about what changes you are making and how you are planning to prevent the same mistakes in the future. Sharing your steps will help improve your image by making your brand look honest, open, and conversational, keeping your followers in the loop—all of which social media users value.

Connect with Influencers
This is a good time to call on your social media influencer connections for backup. These individuals already have the trust of their communities and can leverage that trust to throw some positive attention in your direction. Strategically, let these influencers know about some of the details of what went wrong and allow them to share this information in their own words. Afterwards, always be sure to thank them by acknowledging their support in an appropriate way.

Share Your Experience
Failure is life’s greatest teacher—when responded to correctly, failures allow you to learn and grow, strengthening your company as a whole. Use this to your advantage by acting as the mentor and sharing your experiences in a way that positions you as the wise sage, helping others avoid the same pitfalls. Create a short video or write a thoughtful blog post chronicling the failure, making light of it (if appropriate), and encouraging discussion.

Move On

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Follow Through on Your Prevention Plan
This should go without saying, but do what you said you were going to do. Invest in new tools, hire experts, set up checks and balances… actually make whatever changes you discussed making to improve upon your plan and move forward from your mistake.

Learn and Move Forward

After you have admitted to the failure, investigated it, talked with your team, apologized, shared the updates with your followers, reached out to influencers, followed-through on fixing the problems, and shared your experiences, remember to simply learn from your mistakes and move forward. One mistake shouldn’t define your brand and certainly shouldn’t discourage you from social media campaigns in the future. Most brands experience failure or backlash on social media at some point. How you handle failure is more important than the fact that you failed. Take your licks, learn the lessons, and keep on keepin’ on.

Download our free guide, The Pre-Targeting Advantage,to learn new ways to reach your key audiences.

Everything was going right. You constructed a bullet-proof framework, methodically planned out every milestone, readied the marketing troops for action, prepped the balloon drop and chilled the bubbly—by all accounts, you were primed and ready for social media campaign success.

Then, the unthinkable happened… your campaign fizzled out faster than the bubbles in a warm glass of champagne. Now what?

Free guide: Don’t neglect your pre-campaign audience research. Download our free guide, The Pre-Targeting Advantage, and learn the best ways to reach your key audience.

Immediate Social Action

“To err is human” – Alexander Pope

Acknowledge the Mistake
The nature of social media has conditioned users expect a certain level of transparency from businesses, especially in the wake of a failure or a mistake. Your followers and others will be watching your social accounts waiting for your reaction. The best action you can take when a slipup occurs is to acknowledge it ASAP. By acknowledging your blunder quickly, you are positioning your company to control the conversation around the issue. Even if you’re not entirely sure what the mistake was, simply say that you’re aware of the matter and are currently investigating it.

Collect Data
The next action to take after you have acknowledged your mishap is to collect as much information about your failure as possible. Pull all of the analytics you have available, research what outside forces may have negatively affected your campaign, and re-evaluate the tools you used—were they the right tools for the job? Retrace and document your exact execution. The more you understand about what went wrong and why, the easier it will be to fix the problems and ensure that you won’t make the same mistake/s again.

Meet with Your Team
After you have thoroughly researched the issue, meet with your team and hold a debrief where you review the research and brainstorm possible reasons why the campaign went awry. Be sure to include everyone who was involved, as well as some outside folks. The campaign team can give detailed explanations of how the plan unfolded, and the outsiders may be able to give a new and important perspective on the issue.

Don’t Censor Feedback
Never, EVER censor negative feedback. It makes your brand look disingenuous and that lack of transparency can hurt your brand. It can also exacerbate an already painful mess-up by projecting the image that you are not willing to own your mistakes. Just don’t do it, no matter how tempting.

Accept That Campaigns Don’t Always Go to Plan
It can be easy to sink into a self-deprecating spiral when a plan that you worked very hard on doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, and that goes double when the plan flat out fails. However, social media can be tough to navigate. Unpredictable variables can creep in at any moment, without warning, and throw a good campaign off course. Take a few deep breaths, hold your head up high, and move forward.

Fixing the Failure

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal” – Winston Churchill

Be Transparent about Your Fix
Acknowledging a mistake is the right first step, but it is by no means the last step. Give your followers proof that you are fixing the issue, be transparent about what changes you are making and how you are planning to prevent the same mistakes in the future. Sharing your steps will help improve your image by making your brand look honest, open, and conversational, keeping your followers in the loop—all of which social media users value.

Connect with Influencers
This is a good time to call on your social media influencer connections for backup. These individuals already have the trust of their communities and can leverage that trust to throw some positive attention in your direction. Strategically, let these influencers know about some of the details of what went wrong and allow them to share this information in their own words. Afterwards, always be sure to thank them by acknowledging their support in an appropriate way.

Share Your Experience
Failure is life’s greatest teacher—when responded to correctly, failures allow you to learn and grow, strengthening your company as a whole. Use this to your advantage by acting as the mentor and sharing your experiences in a way that positions you as the wise sage, helping others avoid the same pitfalls. Create a short video or write a thoughtful blog post chronicling the failure, making light of it (if appropriate), and encouraging discussion.

Move On

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Follow Through on Your Prevention Plan
This should go without saying, but do what you said you were going to do. Invest in new tools, hire experts, set up checks and balances… actually make whatever changes you discussed making to improve upon your plan and move forward from your mistake.

Learn and Move Forward

After you have admitted to the failure, investigated it, talked with your team, apologized, shared the updates with your followers, reached out to influencers, followed-through on fixing the problems, and shared your experiences, remember to simply learn from your mistakes and move forward. One mistake shouldn’t define your brand and certainly shouldn’t discourage you from social media campaigns in the future. Most brands experience failure or backlash on social media at some point. How you handle failure is more important than the fact that you failed. Take your licks, learn the lessons, and keep on keepin’ on.

Download our free guide, The Pre-Targeting Advantage,to learn new ways to reach your key audiences.

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