The Only Guarantee in Social Media? Mistakes

And, of course, “social media gurus” calling out anyone and everyone who does happen to make a mistake (because we all know that social media gurus never ever make mistakes).

You haven’t worked in social media for very long if you haven’t bumbled by doing at least one of following:

  • Tweeting something inappropriate (oh, if there was only a pull back button!)
  • Making a wise crack or joke that was misunderstood or offended someone
  • Getting too emotional in an exchange and wishing you hadn’t
  • Using profanity
  • Citing a wrong source or accidentally posting misinformation
  • Writing a nasty review or blog comment that on second thought wasn’t fair
  • Writing a sub-par blog post

I plead guilty to all of the above.

As Alexander Pope once said: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”  He got the first part right.  Making mistakes is part of being human.  We all make mistakes.  Mistakes are inevitable.  Unsinkable ships sink.  Airplanes crash.  Financial systems fail.  And brands will make mistakes on social media.

Some of them will be big.  United Breaks Guitars, for example.  Some of them will be minor.  Remember the poor Ketchum VP who tweeted that he didn’t like Memphis when visiting a client?

Social media might feel like it has been around for a while, but Facebook is seven years old.  Twitter has been around for just five years.  Blogging as we know it started in the middle 1990s.  This is all new and it is in a constant churn.  New technologies get introduced all the time and old ones fade out.

Everyone — including the gurus — is still figuring it all out.  Despite all the advice to “do it this way” or “that way is wrong” there are dozens of examples of brands that are doing it “this way” or “that way” and doing a heck of a good job at it.

Just like there’s no one way to do advertising or public relations, there’s no one way of doing social media.  There never will be.

Alexander Pope might have thought forgiving was only in the purview of the divine, but it isn’t.  All of us should take a step back and realize that mistakes will happen and that one day it will be our turn.  Forgive your peers when they screw up.  Give them support for at least being out there and trying to make sense of this new paradigm.

That’s not to say that lessons can’t be learned from reviewing the behaviors and errors of those before us, but can we do so with civility, dignity and gentility?

Believe it or not, but it is possible to criticize constructively without resorting to finger-pointing, hyperbole and righteous indignation.


3 Lessons from United Breaks Guitars

Makes Will Be Made (Ketchum VP & Memphis)

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