Written By: John White (@juanblanco76)

My social media crisis happened on the one day I took my eye off the ball. I signed up for a free trial of a new app I thought was going to light my Twitter account on fire. Then boom! It happened. When the dust cleared, I had lost over 1300 followers, had tons of people that were angry with me, and force fed a heaping portion of humble pie.

There are very few things in the world my wife dislikes more than my smartphone. As a social media manager and blogger, I am always on it checking updates and responding. Due to my admitted smartphone addiction, we have developed certain rules of engagement. Phones are not permitted at the dinner table or on the weekends when we go out as a family.

Usually, I will sneak a few peeks at it here and there when I feel the detachment levels getting to be too much. However, on this particular day I was really good. So good in fact that I didn’t look at my phone a single time on our Sunday afternoon family outing.

We got home and put the kids to bed, I finally took a look at what was likely to be a long list of notifications to sort through. However, this time there were so many I didn’t know where to start. There were emails, texts, voicemails, Facebook instant messages, tweets, and more all at massive levels. Apparently, people had been trying to get ahold of me. All the messages I was getting started with something like this, “I got this weird tweet from you talking about a rumor that was being spread.” My Twitter account was hacked, and the hackers had been having a field day for the previous four hours or so!

My Twitter-gate crisis cost me, 1300 followers. It caused enormous embarrassment to my brand. Lastly, it cost me the better part of two days of productivity due to damage control activities with those people that were still nice enough to continue following me.

How can your company avoid a social media crisis? Check out these common social media blunders that can quickly lead to a crisis, and my suggestions to avoiding a similar experience for your company.

1) I’m pretty sure my hack was due to signing up for a free trial of a Twitter app that was in beta that was going to do amazing things for my followers and engagement. Be very careful of giving your password to these companies. I recommend doing some research before committing to a “harmless free trial.” Many of these so called free trials are scams, and the products do not deliver what they say they are going to. They bring you in by promising big things and making you feel at ease by saying, “don’t worry you can cancel at any time.” Meanwhile, they’ve got your password and access to your account. Also, in most cases the payment for the first month goes through at the time you sign up. Not after the free trial ends.

To avoid this scenario make sure to vet fully all 3rd party applications before signing up. The good ones will have a verifiable track record and credible online reviews.

2) What a difference an extra letter here and there can make. Embarrassing typos or grammar blunders can do massive damage to a brand’s reputation. To avoid these types of typos, it is imperative that you proofread diligently. It is also a good idea to have a second set of eyes look at your work before it gets published. If you need to hire an editor for your work consider, Susan Rooks (the Grammar Goddess). She has saved me from embarrassing typos several times!

3) A slow response or even worse a complete lack of response to a customer service inquiry via social media can escalate quickly into a full-blown crisis. Notice that the example Tweet above has 47 Retweets from other angry customers!

Your company should have a consistent strategy when dealing with customer service that includes a plan to efficiently respond to requests via social. If you don’t, rest assured many of your competitors have figured out a way to do it. Just so we are clear, asking an already upset customer to take an additional step to resolve their issue via an automated message is not a recipe for a good customer experience.

4) Avoid offensive comments. Keep in mind that everything you put out there online can and will be retweeted, shared, captured, and recorded forever. Your professional image should be projected at all times, and taken into consideration with every action you take via social media. Just because the message you send to someone goes to their inbox privately, does not mean that they cannot make your private message very public.

Have you received these types of messages on LinkedIn? Have you personally or has your company ever had a social media crisis? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

About the Author: John White is a recovering 13-year veteran of the wireless industry, current owner and chief marketer at Social Marketing Solutions, and is a contributing writer to The Good Men ProjectDice InsightsBabble.com, and more. When he is not blogging or Tweeting, John enjoys being a dad, playing tennis, and eating Mexican food.

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