As polite and appropriate as you try to be online, sometimes you may write something that is misconstrued or that inadvertently causes offense. This happens to everyone on occasion. What’s important is how to fix it if it happens.
Since online communication has been around for a long time now, people are more adept at what to do if something is posted that offends others. The mistake is not as nearly as critical as what you do about it after the offense has been committed. Before social media existed, public mistakes (in writing or verbally) was handled by public relations professionals. In those days, the negative information was not nearly as far reaching as it is nowadays. Because of the broad reach of online communications, the offense seems much worse and the apology must be really effective. Knowing that you will make mistakes online at some point, it is equally important to be prepared for when that happens so that you can exercise damage control quickly and effectively. If you do that effectively, it can mean a great deal to the success or failure of your business.
Your apology should be heartfelt and sincere. However, once you have made your apology, you should move on with your online relationship. There is absolutely no sense in dwelling on it. The last thing that you need is to acquire an online negative reputation. Once you have made peace with the person whom you have offended, that is the end of it. Nobody else needs to know about it. When you are in the position of having to apologize, there are strategic places where you should do so: the social media channels that you have in common with the person and your blog.
Apologizing in social media channels: Even if you don’t understand why it is important to apologize in your social media channels, it is an extremely strategic and effective platform to do so. The information that you post on your social media channels reaches the right people quickly and then it is gone. That is just the nature of how information communicated by that means happens.
- Twitter: Twitter is a perfect social media channel in which to post an apology because of its 140-character maximum. Because of Twitter’s nature, your apology will be short, effective, and meaningful. Twitter will allow you to say just enough but not too much. Additionally, Twitter won’t allow people to dwell on whatever you said because their messages must be just as limited in length as yours are.
- Facebook: Of course, Facebook doesn’t have the same length limitation as Twitter. However, it is still an excellent way of controlling how widespread the damage becomes. If you are considering posting an apology on your Facebook wall, it is not advisable. Instead, it is better to create a tab with your apology displayed as an image. Your intention should not be for other people to share your apology with anyone and everyone. If you post it on your wall, the potential is there for that action. If you create a tab, you can write as long and detailed an apology as you wish and you can choose the person (or people) with whom you want to share it. Once a little time passes, you can remove the tab and the entire issue will have been forgotten.
Apologizing on your blog: Posting an apology on your blog is just as effective as posting it on your social media channels. With that in mind; however, it is important to be cautious in certain respects since the very nature of a blog is that it should be shared with a large number of other people:
- An image: If you create your apology as an image, you will make sure that your online connections won’t be able to share the apology with other people indiscriminately. Once a little time has passed, you can remove the image and it will disappear altogether.
- NoIndex: Since the search engines are designed to pick up the content from your blog, the last thing that you want is for them to include your apology in their indexing. If you tag your article as “NoIndex,” the search engines won’t include it in their search index.
- Disable comments: Before you post your apology, you should ensure that you disable the potential for people to make comments. You don’t need to attach any more negativity to the situation than has already been created. You certainly don’t want to cause your online reputation to take a nose dive after you have worked so hard at boosting it. If you disable the comments, you have control over what is being said and the situation won’t get out of control.
It would be great if there was never any need to apologize for anything online (or otherwise in life). However, human being make mistakes and in order to continue to maintain valuable relationships with other people, apologies are necessary sometimes. What is important is how you handle yourself once you have unfortunately made a mistake. It is very important that you acknowledge to others when you have made a mistake or wronged them in some way and that you truly want to do whatever is necessary to fix your mistake. Showing your human side will go a very long way. Your integrity and sincerity will mean a great deal to other people.
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Carolyn Cohn is the Chief Editor of CompuKol Communications LLC. Mrs. Cohn has a wealth of experience in business writing as well as having a strong editorial background. She manages all of the company’s writers, journalists and editors as well as writing, editing and publishing several business articles a week on a consistent basis, which are syndicated globally.
Mrs. Cohn has run several editorial departments for other companies. She has over 25 years of editorial experience and her expertise covers a wide range of media, such as online editing, and editing books, journal articles, abstracts, and promotional and educational materials.
Throughout her career, Mrs. Cohn has established and maintained strong relationships with professionals from a wide variety of companies. The principle that governs her work is that all words need to be edited.
Mrs. Cohn earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo.
Mrs. Cohn is a member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA).