Is social out to break you or make you?

By Charlotte Causley, Account Director

As Terry Wogan’s producer used to say about on-air mistakes: “nobody died”, but translate this into the social media realm and its instantaneous capabilities can cause upset, reputation damage and even create a brand crisis with just one single post.

There were hundreds and thousands – pun intended – of disgruntled Great British Bake Off fans this week when new judge Prue Leith accidently revealed this year’s winner on Twitter just hours ahead of the finale’s airing. While this caused an uproar among the British public, I’m sure no one felt as bad as poor Prue, who probably cost Channel 4 millions in revenue and lowered those all-important viewing figures for the channel’s first series of the £25m culinary show.

In this instance, Prue owned the error in a timely matter, explaining the situation and held her hands up to fans and followers – the best thing to do in any situation, especially when mediating a potential PR crisis. Even though she swiftly removed the post when she realised her blunder, of course, the news went viral and the three-month, tightly wrapped secret was unfortunately revealed further.

Gone are the days where an individual or brand could have a few days to create a press release or set up a media briefing to explain the situation, and with all the positivity it brings, social media can also act as an accelerator of a bad situation. Followers want instant answers when someone puts their foot in it and brands must adhere to this need if they want to salvage their reputation.

Like Prue, brands need to immediately confess to any errors they may have made. If they aren’t open and honest at the soonest possibility, speculation starts to occur and other people will start to paint another story of the situation they have found themselves in.

It’s also important not to downplay the situation; your audience won’t appreciate this kind of tactic. Address the error, and inform people what steps are being taken to ensure that the company is doing its best to make sure the mishap never happens again.

Even though there is a smaller chance of a public airing, being aware of your social actions still applies in the B2B arena. Think of Prue as a company selling cloud services or perhaps a data centre provider who gives away some serious business insights on a company page. If a supplier, investor or partner witnesses this error, it could result in a serious financial backlash. You’d hope a company facing this kind of scenario has a stringent crisis plan in place before the calamity so that, when things do go wrong, stakeholders know who to go to and for what. And businesses, if you don’t have something like this in place, you might, and by might, I mean definitely, want to incorporate this into your overall business protocol as soon as possible.

Ultimately, while it does fall to a company or person to own their error, it’s also worth us, the general public, just remembering that mistakes can happen. After all, we are human.