When people make a mistake, they generally take one of two courses of action: they fix it or they try to cover it up. In both cases, the goal is the same – to make the mistake go away...fast.
In social media though, it's not quite that simple.
From typos in your tweets to jokes that fall flat on Facebook, mistakes come with the territory. And, that's because there is no one right way to do social media. Tactics and messages vary from company to company, the playing field and the players are constantly in flux, and the whole ecosystem is moving at a breathtaking pace.
When you're adapting to that much change and operating that quickly, you should EXPECT to make some mistakes.
More often than not, trying to fix or hide these mistakes will call more attention to them than if you'd just left them alone.
We've all had the impulse to send out a correction to clarify to our followers that we do indeed know the difference between "your" and "you're" and that we were simply the victim of auto-correct in our social post.
But honestly, does it matter? Who HASN'T been the victim of auto-correct? And how likely is it that everyone in your network is reading your posts so thoroughly that they noticed the flub?
Same thing holds true for sending out an apology for a mistake you made, such as “I apologize for that thing I just tweeted” or “I apologize for my tone this morning.”
People are not, in fact, listening to every word you say in social media. In many cases (particularly on Facebook where the EdgeRank algorithm plays into who sees what and how much), most of your audience may have entirely missed the mistake you made.
But when you send out an apology, it acts as an advertisement promoting the mistake, inviting people to stop by your feed to revisit the error of your ways.
Hiding your mistakes can be a tricky business, too. Even if you go back and delete a post, chances are that someone saw it somewhere before you took it down. It's pretty much impossible to entirely erase something's existence entirely within the digital universe.
So, what's a person who's human and makes mistakes to do?
Try this on for size...when you make a mistake, immediately go and make something that's not a mistake, as soon as possible.
Think of your content like a flume ride at an amusement park, where bored college-aged workers in bright knickers load up a log of thrill-seekers at the start of the ride, release the log down the stream, and then start filling the next log in the queue.
If you forget to throw some content into the log that just got released, you’re not going to dive in and swim after it, trying to toss it in, right? And you’re not going to stand at the start of the ride and yell, “NO ONE LOOK AT THAT LOG I JUST SENT DOWN! IT TOTALLY WAS NOT LOADED PROPERLY," right?
No, you learn your lesson, and load up the content correctly in the next log and move on.
Like the flume ride at a park, the digital content stream is continuously moving, so you need to be continuously moving and fluid as well.
Information stays fresh an astonishingly short time these days, and everyone reads their social from the top, down. This means that the most important thing that you can say in social media...is the thing that you just said. (Not what you said yesterday and certainly not what you said last week.)
So, be prodigious and fearless in your social engagement and trust in the power of the stream to not only provide a home for your new content, but to sweep away the detritus of your old stuff, like dirty rainwater through a storm drain.
I’m a consultant, strategist, author, educator, and speaker with more than 30 years of professional experience. I’m passionately curious, fairly sassy, kinda dorky and seriously good at what I do.