According to the acclaimed playwright Oscar Wilde, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.

This may be true, but some mistakes are larger and more costly to a company’s reputation than others—especially when they unfold in social media.

And given 190 million Tweets are posted daily and the average person in the U.S. spends 16 minutes of every hour on social media, any mistake your company makes in this area will likely be seen in real time and before it is “fixed”. And odds are you will be called out on it minutes after that.

This blog post by IMPACT Branding & Design’s Carolyn Edgecomb describes how the world of social media is evolving to take a more PR-focused approach. She explains how social media is no longer about posting mindless updates on Facebook and Twitter, but instead a way for companies to engage and interact.

But to do this well, organizations need an experienced social media manager in place that is well versed in social media PR and crisis communications, so that should disaster strike, your organization is ready.

Here are a few examples of mistakes to avoid:

  1. Be on top of breaking news, especially when scheduling posts in advance. On the morning after a mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theatre during the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, the National Rifle Association (NRA)  sent out this Tweet: “Good morning shooters. Happy Friday. Weekend plans?” It is likely the post was scheduled in advance, and then forgotten. The timing of the post made the NRA appear heartless and ignorant to the victims of the Aurora tragedy.
  2. Do not tie a crisis or tragedy to a promotion. In 2011, during the revolution in Egypt, Kenneth Cole tweeted: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.” Public backlash ensued, and the brand had to quickly apologize for being insensitive.
  3. Ensure social media managers are posting to the right accounts. A number of social media managers have accidentally tweeted unprofessional and even offensive messages from their company’s account rather than from their personal one. In particular, a Chrysler employee dropped the F-bomb and insulted Detroit-area drivers when they tweeted from the company account: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f#@*ing drive.”

One way to avoid these types of mistakes is to have the right people and processes in place to actively and proactively manage your brand across social media channels.

Another way is to understand the role that social media plays in public relations. This will help ensure that when a serious mistake occurs (and it will), it is handled by an experienced PR expert in a way that strengthens your brand and improves your organization’s public perception.

What are you doing to prevent these types of social media disasters? Tell us by leaving a comment below.