McDonald’s recently found itself with Egg McMuffin on its face when its Twitter account “went rogue” and sent a derisive tweet to Donald Trump. Was it a hacking, a disgruntled employee, a new corporate policy? The offending tweet was quickly deleted, and the company explained its account had been compromised. But because they’re McDonald’s, with more than 150,000 followers, the Hamburgling of their social media account instantly made news.

The fast food chain’s social snafu may have sent shivers down the spine of any business owner using or considering Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms. What if a post meant for your personal account finds its way to your business page? Or what if you accidentally announce a special sale for the wrong day, say something offensive or momentarily forget basic spelling and grammar?

Mistakes happen. In case they happen to you, here’s our guide to handling a social media slip-up.

1. Don’t panic

If your social media account says something it shouldn’t — whether through innocent error, posting to the wrong place, an uncaught typo or an actual account hacking — stay calm and work through the steps to fix it. Chances are you’ll be able to rectify the situation before many people take notice, in a way that high-profile McDonald’s was not able to. If you weren’t already actively reviewing all of your social posts to make sure nothing is amiss, now’s the time to add that to your daily to-do list, or deputize someone to handle it.

2. Fix the issue as soon as you can

Quickly correct typos, grammar mistakes, wrong dates or other bad information. Delete anything inappropriate or off-brand. If you catch the error and edit or delete it within minutes, the damage (if any) is extremely limited. If you’re not sure whether something is potentially offensive or inappropriate, don’t risk leaving it for others to see; just take it down.

3. Humbly apologize, possibly with humor

If the offending post was live longer than just a few minutes, it often helps to say sorry. In a new post, admit that you made a mistake and apologize to your followers for any confusion or offense given, thus continuing to build your followers’ trust. If it’s appropriate to your brand voice, poke a little fun at yourself for the slip. When someone at the American Red Cross posted a personal tweet on the organization’s official account, the Red Cross remedied the situation swiftly and with humor.

The offending tweet:

Red Cross Rogue Tweet

The correction:

American Red Cross Tweet Correction

4. Take additional action

Once you’ve corrected the social media faux pas, take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If a post or tweet was made to the wrong account, put your business and personal profiles on different devices, so they can’t be confused again. If a typo or textual error slipped through, examine your internal processes for posting to social media, and consider delegating someone to review everything before it goes out; give them guidelines about what is and is not appropriate to your services and brand voice. If an employee was acting out, take steps to discipline him or her, or otherwise address the problem. If you believe your account was hacked, immediately change your passwords and contact the necessary legal authorities, if appropriate.

5. Remember that prevention is the best medicine

Mistakes do happen, and rogue tweets (or Facebook posts, or LinkedIn updates or Pinterest pins) are sometimes unavoidable. They’re not the end of the world: Unless you’re as famous as McDonald’s or the American Red Cross, most people will forget them pretty quickly. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to prevent them. Review your social media policies and procedures, and make sure everyone at your company who has access to your social media accounts understands them. Double check that you’re logged into your business account, not your personal account (or vice versa). Reread — and then reread again — your copy before hitting “Tweet” or “Post.”

Taking preventive action ahead of time, and keeping these tips in mind if you do make a mistake, will help ensure you remain a social butterfly. And you always have the option of letting experts manage your social media for you, so you can free yourself up to focus on other aspects of your business.

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