Welcome to the the next installment in my series of social media tips. These are aimed primarily at a police audience, but hopefully applicable to a wider group of people too, especially those in the public sector. This series of posts will aim to identify some good practice and useful hints and tips for police officers and staff to consider when using social media.

Part 5:

What to do when things go wrong

Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life, and can be valuable lessons for how to do things better next time. There is often a concern that mistakes on social media sites are somehow worse, somehow bigger than mistakes in the ‘real’ world. Yes there is the potential for mistakes to be copied and pasted around the world, or easily picked up by the media…but this is becoming increasingly true in the real world as well, with mobile phone video cameras, hidden recorders etc.

Here are my tips on what to do if you screw up.

Firstly apologise! Same as in the offline world, you make a mistake, say sorry. It often goes a long way to diffuse an awkward situation.

Secondly make amends – if the mistake can be corrected do so…but do it in such a way that it is obvious you have corrected it. Note that a post has been corrected or replaced, or even better strike through the error and place the corrected text next to it. In the worst case scenario this will preserve the exact wording of a post if needed to respond to a formal complaint etc.

Thirdly be clear why something has been deleted. Deletion should only be a last resort, as there is every chance that copies of your post will already be out there somewhere, and the internet will gleefully copy an embarrassing post many times over. Personally I would only delete something that is illegal, offensive or prejudicial to an investigation.

Fourthly laugh at yourself. You make an error, be self deprecating. It goes a long way to show your human side.

Finally move on. It’s the Internet, millions of posts are made every day. You are not a major celebrity and an error you make is unlikely to mean the end of the world as you know it. Continually responding to posts about an error just means that the issue will carry on.

Photo by elycefeliz on Flick’r

This post was previously published on Partrdigej’s blog.

Previous posts from the Social Media Handbook Series:

Part 1: What Social Media networks should I use?

Part 2: How do I get followers / friends ???

Part 3: Policies / Strategies / Guidance??

Part 4: Ten things to have on your page to drive up interest??

Justin Partridge

Justin Partridge is a senior manager for Lincolnshire Police in England. He also works on Local Policing and Partnerships for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Justin Partridge has worked in the public sector since leaving university, and for the police since 2003. After being one of only three non-sworn staff selected for the prestigious Police Strategic Command Course (for those who aspire to the most senior posts in UK policing), he started working on the national Local Policing and Partnerships area with chief officers from across the UK, and with partners from the Home Office, NPIA, APA and elsewhere.

Justin is passionate about making a difference to people, and see social media and new technologies having a major role in this – especially in policing and the wider public sector. He blogs on a variety of issues, predominantly around police and technology, and can be found on Twitter talking about much the same.