Maintaining Your Social Image Despite Scandal

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Social media and maintaining a social image can be a daunting thing to brands and businesses, especially after horror stories about social media gone wrong. We’ve all seen plenty of social media fails run amok–don’t let this be the fate of your brand. 

There is a three step strategy any business can take when social media scandal strikes to make sure you don’t pull a Jenny McCarthy.

1. Respond with speed

You need to rush to accept responsibility. Time is not your friend in this scenario—you need to move fast. This is a situation where speed can almost trump strategy. Time spent not taking action in this type of media can actually be far worse than spending too little time thinking about what to say.

2. Genuine Apology

People on social media can smell bullshit from a mile away. Common advertising has refined the bullshit detectors of young, media savvy people to an 11 on a 10 point scale. If you are not genuine, then your action will be destructive. A disingenuous response will backfire quickly. When in doubt about being genuine ask yourself the following question: would you respond that way in front of God or your mother? If your answer is no, then don’t respond that way online, either. Honesty is the best policy.

3. Add some humor… probably about yourself

Everyone loves a funny person. Everyone enjoys laughing at other people. Of course, not very many people like laughing at themselves. But if you use self-deprecating humor, you disarm your critics. Using self-deprecating humor also helps to brush off the incident as if it is not that big of a deal. Your social image will be 

These three steps are a great way to deal with any negative backlash or social media fail. However, one common online problem that many businesses face are negative reviews. For most local businesses, one major negative review can feel like a huge online issue.


To address negative reviews, a local business can follow a similar three step strategy.

1. Say you’re sorry

There is a saying that goes something like this: the customer is always right. So when did that rule somehow not apply to the online world as well? Apologizing is something that can help build or repair your social image when a negative review is written. Saying you are sorry is one of the first things you should always do when responding to a negative review online.

An example of what a small business would say could be something like this: “I’m really sorry you had a negative experience at our clinic. We really pride ourselves in providing good customer service and an exceptional experience (as good of an experience you can have at a dentist, anyways).”

2. Leave a bit of marketing

In writing these responses we need to become aware that human beings are going to be reading them. So, leaving a little bit of marketing isn’t a bad idea. Be general, but also be honest and truthful. Talk about what you do best. Try and make this short, so you don’t come off as salesy in the wrong situation.

An example of this would be something like: “This must be an isolated incident, as normally people rave about our customer service, from the receptionist to the dentist. I am anxious to hear what happened to see if we can rectify the situation.”

3. Leave your name and contact information- try to get them on the phone

This is the most important part. This part should be noticeable and easy to read. The only way for a business to get rid of a negative review is to have the user who wrote it take it down. Take this conversation offline and try to sort it out. You wouldn’t argue with a customer in the middle of a busy store; you would ask them to follow you into your office. So why wouldn’t you try to take the negative conversation offline so more people don’t see it?

This also provides the opportunity to get the real win, which is solve the problem and ask them to remove that negative review because the problem is solved. You will only get it removed if you ask. An example of this would look something like: “I’d love for you to call me so we can work this out. My name is Mike Tastad, and I’m the owner – please give me a call at 555.666.7777.
If you want to know more about dealing with social media scandal and responding to negative feedback, and other ways to improve your online image, check out a recording of a recent webinar I did for Vendasta. You can view the recording here or click the image.


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Michael Tastad

Michael Tastad is an account executive at Vendasta, who drinks an obscene amount of green tea and absorbs political information as fast as he closes deals (super fast).