4 Ways To Survive Social Media Humiliation

social media humiliation

You are working your social media – religiously. Still, mistakes happen.

The poorly timed Tweet. The politically sensitive Facebook image. The not-such-a-great-idea hashtag. The clever post that demonstrated to the world you don’t follow current news. The unfortunate late Friday afternoon tweet when your social media manager forgot they were not on their personal Twitter account. Let’s face it…things happen.

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Even big corporations and celebrities sometimes miss the mark:

J.P. Morgan

Learned a Twitter Q&A promoted as #AskJPM was not such a great idea when the Twitterverse was in the ripe mood to slam financial giants.


Criticized when it promoted its whole-grain cranberry scone and healthy breakfast with a tweet shortly after the tragic Boston Marathon bombing that read, “Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today.” The company did tweet a prompt apology.

Ann Coulter

Her sweepingly horrific #BringBackOurCountry tweet, proving some authors, celebrities and political pundits should be banned from social media until successful completion of a sensitivity course.


Faced criticism for failing to provide a banner image on its LinkedIn company page  – proving that even giants of industry sometimes need a nudge in the finer elements of social media marketing. With nearly 174,000 followers on LinkedIn, of which 18,346 are employees, Toyota still has a bland LinkedIn company page with no imagery to support its branding – and people are still criticizing.

US Airways

Viral retweet of an inappropriate image mistakenly shared from its Twitter account. The image was tweeted at least once in response to a customer who complained to US Airways in a tweet saying, “You ruined my spring break, I want some free stuff.” American Airlines, which is in the process of merging with US Airways, apologized for the inappropriate tweet. In US Airways defense, the tweeted photo ended up in the company’s Twitter feed by accident.

Major corporations, including IKEA USA, Home Depot and even Pepsi have felt the bitter sting of social media condemnation, all thanks to unfortunate hashtags, spelling errors, poorly timed jokes, funny pictures that were anything but funny and even attempts at crisis control – defensive marketing that ended up being little more than Twitter rants.

What To Do If Social Media Humiliation Tweets You

Own It

Don’t be afraid to say you are sorry. Mistakes happen. Humility is powerful. Show empathy. Show compassion. In short…show you care!

If a tweet or post was insensitive, or poorly timed, show grace in asking for forgiveness and do not feel the need to insert useless humor or make the situation worse by defending your position, especially if you know your social media post was in the wrong.

Be timely in taking responsibility and showing a desire for clemency, even consideration. If you feel the tweet, post or share was not offensive or perhaps was misconstrued, share that with delicacy – not anger or defensiveness. You want to facilitate a harmonious resolution so that everyone comes away with neutrality, even tranquility.

Understand It

Patience is a wonderful attribute – and can be a significant tool in riding a social media disaster.

Be patient with yourself, your social media manager and your social media team. Take the time to explore what went wrong – and why. Demonstrate a gentle cordiality. Be benevolent. Understand that your apology may take some time to settle in and be accepted, even appreciated.

Do not feel the need to shoot out scores of social media posts and rapid-fire tweets in an attempt to change the vibe. Be mild and mindful, and keep any posts upbeat and loaded with good intentions.

Accept It

Courtesy under fire is a gift – bestow it to yourself and your social media campaign. Rejecting or denying that a social media disaster hit will not help you move forward.

Take a philanthropic positioning – remember your social media platforms are a form of customer service and client care. With authentic decency, accept that something bad happened and work to improve the situation. Be sincere – don’t fake it. Accept it, take the appropriate actions to arrive at an honest, genuine resolution and move forward.

Get It

When all is tweeted and done, make sure you get what all the fuss was about in the first place. Learn from the experience. Grow from the experience. Use it to generate better social media posts and exchanges.

If the trouble started because of a sadly timed seasonal tweet, be more present in your content creativity and be mindful of religious holidays, national days of observance and work to stay current with the news of the day.

If you understand what went wrong, you will have gained a new empiricism and maturity. The result: Better social media engagement and a revitalized commitment to deliver superior, creative posts designed to please everyone.

Shocked Photo via Shutterstock


Marie Alonso Marie Alonso is a content branding and social media strategist at CompuData. She is a contributor on content, social media and business technologies for Small Business Trends, Philadelphia Business Journal, Social Media Today and VAR Guy and keeps track of social media trends on Twitter @DigitalPRLady.

9 Reactions
  1. Oh boy, Epicurious did that? So opportunistic, inappropriate, insensitive. They apologised (and promptly, which is good), but it’s sad they posted that tweet in the first place.

    Your tips are useful. Actually, the subtitles read like a mantra to me: own it, understand it, accept it, get it.

  2. People really just want to know you’re sorry and that you are taking action to prevent another misstep. Everyone makes mistakes and we should be more forgiving of the mistakes of others as well.

    • I think the problem compounds itself when ego/pride gets in the way of an apology, or when the apology’s half baked/doesn’t come across as genuine.

      But I agree, we’re all human – most of us, anyway! – including those who represent companies.

  3. Something similar happened to me a few weeks back except it was on Google Plus not Twitter when a technical glitch sent a post on my announcing my new edition of Paper.li hit email inboxes along with my status update.

    One particular G+ Authority gave me a public dressing down and no amount of apologizing on my part would placate him. His tirade continued until I pointed out that as a Mentor to the Masses, he could have written to me privately and guided me. Incidentally he had circled me first!

    On the flip side, I learned that people do read posts and yes, tweets too even if they don’t comment, plus one, tweet or reply. Others who saw what was happening came out in support by giving me a plus one.

    I survived but I wonder where did this person’s sense of online etiquette and reputation management skills go?

    • I think you handled the situation well. You can’t control how and when people react in light of a mistake you’ve made. You can only control how you handle yourself and how you deal with the situation. You did what you could. His continuing tirade was not your responsibility. It was his.

  4. I think the most important point you hit on is “accept it.” When companies and brands accept the fact they did the wrong thing, and they appologize – all wrongs can be righted and even more trust can be built. It’s when companies deny or defend their mistakes that they lose trust.