I had the great pleasure today to be chatting with @Boehringer, and it was politely pointed out to me that there was a typo in my last blog post “Boehringer still chatting away”. I presumed that in my hurry to type up my post & then post I had got a where / were wrong or perhps some other typo. @Boehringer however then asked whom did I mean by Dr.X. I took a deep breath … this was not the typo I was expecting – this was a blatant error! In actual fact it was Dr XXXX – it was one of the doctors taking part in the tweet chat and I had meant to double check the name before committing some error on my blog. Well that failed spectacularly because I forgot to amened and now my blog talks about some Dr. XXXXX!
Had it been Dr X I would have been annoyed but mildly amused too. Dr XXXX however brings up all sorts of connotations and my blog is meant to be vaguely professional! If I were new to social media, or a pharma company, I would have rushed online, made the change and prayed that no one had spotted the error. As it was somebody very kindly parted me with my smartphone in Barcelona over the weekend so I had no way of getting online quickly. Panic you may think.
However I am now starting to be bit of an old hand at social media so actually I was not overly concerned. I maintained that mild amusement – of a slightly different ilk but still mildly amused. And I was in no rush to try desperately to find wifi and get online with my laptop. In fact I started mulling over writing this blog post … and wondering what sort of traffic I will get with XXXX in my title!
The reason for this mild nonchalance is because I know and I trust social media. I know for starters that the intent of my article was serious and well-intended so any comments I get will either be relevant to the rest of the post or humorous (at least I hope so). But perhaps more to the point I also feel that now that the mistake is made it is better to point it out, have a laugh and live with it rather than furiously, desperately try to correct it and pretend it never happened. This is what my experience in social media tells me.
Sadly many companies when they make a mistake in do exactly this – they try to very quickly cover up the mistake and hope no one noticed, and potentially get very defensive if anyone is so “rude” as to point the mistake out. This can back fire and there have been some spectacular examples of this in social media (Google this and you will find plenty of entertaining examples). They essentially dig that proverbial hole – which I am sure most of know from experience makes matter worse (and often even more entertaining for the bystander).
The correct way to handle this is of course not to try desperately to brush it under the carpet, bring lawyers in, close down your page, etc. The best way is to accept it, admit that you made a boo boo, and perhaps like me, have a strong drink and laugh at your mistake. Some would argue this is different from companies but I always point them back to that rather old example of the Red Cross getting slizzard post (and yes alcohol again).
I love this example. Here is a very reputable organisation, with a very serious subject matter, mistakenly tweeting about getting drunk! Shock horror! If ever there was a time to desperately back pedal here is a great example. The problem of course was that this one mistaken tweet had gone viral. Again shock horror! What to do?! A knee jerk reaction might be to temporarily close the account. A better reaction was however for the Red Cross to tweet a light hearted, but genuine apology.
The result shows why this was the right thing to do. The tweet went even more viral, along with the response, and people started using the # used in the drunken account as a drive for people to give blood. One drunken tweet turned into a charitable drive to get people to donate blood. That to me is a result – born not of planning but of being human and transparent.
It is therefore along this vein that I am now tweeting about Dr.XXXX – to show that even potentially rather embarrassing social media mistakes are not the end of the world. In fact they can reinforce your credibility and your social media appeal. You cannot plan for these things (that is just creepy and wrong) but you can show your true metal but how you respond to your mistakes online, in public. It takes guts but we will love you all the more if you can show that you too are only human. We are forgiving when you admit your mistakes and damning when you try to hide them.
Addendum: Stealing from the Red Cross mistake I wanted to also follow this with a fundraising drive for my charity Hope for Romanian Strays. If you laughed at my mistake or appreciated this blog post and think that you would like to make a difference to a life then please make a donation via paypal to @hopeforstrays Dr XXXX campaign. We need funds to feed, vaccinate, neuter and treat puppies and strays in the shelter (hence the loose connection to a doctor and the number 4). You can donate via paypal at firstname.lastname@example.org, mentioning DrXXXX – for €10 you can vaccinate a puppy or buy a bag of food, €21 neuters a puppy and for €40 you can vaccinate, neuter and feed a puppy. Donations for treatment will go to pay off our never-ending debts with the vets for treating all our emergency cases. So essentially for the price of 4 drinks you can save the life of a puppy or a stray, and bring hope where there is so much despair. Now that would be a great result from a social media mistake! For more information on the charity visit www.hopeforstrays.com