Ask Me! Social Media Fails and How to Prevent Them

Posted on April 30, 2018

Ask Me! Communication Conversations with Claire is a new recurring blog series with Claire Bouchard, a seasoned local government communications professional located in Fort Collins, Colorado. Send your local government communications questions to Claire via email and she’ll answer in a future blog post.

The web is full of hilarious and embarrassing social media fails. Everyone can laugh about it, until it happens to you, then it’s not so funny anymore. So, what’s a local government to do when someone on staff, or gasp, an elected official, posts a super awkward or offensive message?
First of all, breathe. You’re gonna want to throw up a little in your mouth and then, maybe you’ll feel steam coming out your ears. These are natural reactions when your organization’s brand has been compromised willingly or unwillingly.


Let the triage begin! I don’t think you need me to tip you off that you better track that person down ASAP and determine the purpose of the post, and if it’s really egregious, how to delete the posts.
Remember in the first Ask Me! blog when I mentioned that I’m not an attorney? I’m saying it again – I’m not an attorney, buuuut…. sometimes in government, you can’t delete posts. You may want to refer to your policies, city/town Charter, or City Attorney on this one.
Hopefully these haven’t happened in your organization!

Oops Example 1 – No passwords, please!

Oops Example 2 – No employee shenanigans, please!

Call in the Troops – It’s Push Up Time

Okay, so now that the offensive/embarrassing/ (fill in the blank here like a Mad Lib sheet with any cringe-worthy adjective) meme or message is removed, or apologized for (yep, someone’s going to have to add an apology in the comment section), it’s time to organize your social media team for training.
Caveat here – I really hope you’ve done social media training with folks who have access to the organization’s accounts, but if not, there is no time like the present!
NOTE: Don’t forget to invite, i.e., mandate, elected officials. They need to participate in social media training as part of their office’s responsibility, too.

Social Media Training 101

Social media training can look a hundred different ways, but here are some of the core things you’ll want to cover as you prepare colleagues, AND, elected officials to represent your brand on the world wide web.

  • Review your social media policies and procedures.
  • Review the unofficial “oath” or commitment to the brand. If someone has a log in, they should be trusted to represent the brand.
  • Review your “hierarchy” or quality control chain of command. Who can the team go to for help when there is a question or issue outside of day to day operations?
  • Discuss the importance of calendaring content, and being ready to post time sensitive information, too. How often are you going to post, what kind of stories, events, or updates? Come to an agreement about how you will be equitable across departments and services – let’s not flood the feed with ball field condition updates, or quilt show announcements. Have some family-friendly stories and photos of kids and puppies? Now, that’s worthy of flooding the feed.
  • Offer engagement tips – when to reply (here’s more on that topic), what to say (remember, it’s a conversation), and how to say it (here’s more on that topic).
  • Where can people find images?  Is there a shared library? How will your team access photos, logos, other files for adding to content?
  • What needs to be reported? Who will be monitoring engagement? How often does it need to reported? Is there one template you want everyone to use, or what analytics are most important to your organization?

I just scratched the surface on rebounding after a social media faux paus and social media training. Social media is constantly changing, and you’ll want to train some in your organization more often about super-industry specific things like Google algorithm changes, or SEO best practices.
Otherwise, getting everyone (I’m looking at you, Mayors and City Councilmembers!) on the same page early is a best practice, and not to be hyperbolic, imperative to your organization’s brand reputation.
I hope this little list of training topics gets you thinking in new ways and improves your team’s posts in the long term! Check out this great resource offered through Hoot Suite for more tips.

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