Social Media

5 Steps to Put Out a Social Media Fire

socialmediafireIf you were following the social media conversation on Twitter about the Oscars, you likely experienced the cringe felt around the world, when beauty brand @TotalBeauty put up this misinformed tweet, outrageously confusing Whoopi Goldberg for Oprah Winfrey. This was especially ill-timed, as there was already an atmosphere of tension at the awards ceremony, focused on accusations of racism. Some think the Academy isn’t giving the appropriate opportunities to non-white actors and other professionals for the film industry.

That’s a conversation for another day (and another blog!) but today we’re talking about social media disasters.


As marketing professionals, we immediately thought, “Yikes, that social media manager is totally fired!” The tweet was quickly deleted, but what goes on the internet stays on the internet. This gaffe certainly made quite a mark on Total Beauty’s reputation, even if it was at the hands of one person.

So how do you put out the fire of a social media nightmare? Here are a few steps you can take to salvage your reputation:

  1. Be prepared. As they say, prevention is the best medicine. Make sure you fact check all content that’s being published. If you’re not totally sure that what you’re saying is correct, at least have someone else check it out before you hit send.
  2. Be a first responder. As soon as you realize your mistake (or someone else realizes it for you) acknowledge it publicly. Yes, it’s okay to delete the offending tweet, Facebook post or Instagram shot, but chances are someone already got a screen grab of it. That’s okay, but it’s still wise to get it off of your timeline.
  3. Apologize. Being humble is your best approach. You need to be accountable for your mistake and apologize to the appropriate parties. If you offended someone in particular, tag them in your apology. Of course, it’s also important to apologize to them directly and privately.
  4. Cover all your bases. The first place you should apologize and acknowledge your mistake is on the same medium that you made the gaffe in the first place. If you Tweeted out an incorrect fact, correct it on Twitter first and then use Facebook and whatever other social platforms to back it up.
  5. Take it offline. Though it’s important to fess up to your social media sins on social media, there’s also an appropriate time to deal with it in private. Dealing with a customer service issue with a customer? Do your apologizing in the public sphere and then get in contact with the customer directly to resolve the dispute. A long tit-for-tat online won’t look good for anyone.

Have you ever been involved in a social media disaster? How did you put out the flames?