Whether you work as a community manager or you're a business owner slowly getting to grips with social media, it's important to realise that you will need to fight a few fires throughout your career. Accounts can be hacked, data can be lost, and things can go wrong in ways that are very stressful unless you're confident in your ability to deal with them to the best of your ability. Here's a five-step plan for you to use should things go disastrously wrong.
1) Don't delete anything.
The worst possible thing you could do, should you post to the wrong account, have an employee take control and post things against your instructions, and so on, is delete the post itself. This causes what the internet has dubbed the Streisand Effect - so named because after having a photograph of her home removed, copies of the photo swiftly spread. The more you try to hide something, the worse it will look as it appears you are trying to bury your mistakes and appear perfect - which no company is!
If you make a mistake, be the bigger person and post an update explaining what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what steps you are taking to ensure it doesn't happen again. There are few people out there who will still hold it against you if you are willing to deal with the problem. However, you must ensure there are no repeat events, as otherwise your apology and action plan will look either fabricated or beyond your ability.
3) Back everything up.
Some social media crises aren't based around making mistakes yourself - sometimes you'll have written a big company update, only to lose it when you hit "post" and the service you're using goes down. To prevent this, make sure you're constantly drafting in another program and backing everything up. That way, that brilliant Facebook post for your fan page or your latest series of scheduled tweets don't vanish into the void, never to be seen again.
4) Keep your social team small.
Don't have five people manning a single account. People can retweet the same thing multiple times on one account, there's a higher chance of someone tweeting personal things from said account, and it means the tone of the posts changes drastically unless you've got a house writing style and people's brains are connected by some kind of futuristic technology. One person per account is fine, but try to keep it that way.
5) Learn how to use the account.
Don't just assume Twitter is writing the odd tweet and nothing else. Don't assume Facebook is putting things up for people to click "like" on just because they're already fans, or that getting fans is as simple as linking to the fan page every day. Really learn your platforms - know their weaknesses, their disadvantages, how to fix them if they start behaving badly. Learn what the best software to use them with is, and then learn that software inside out. There are no excuses for lacking expertise in a social platform if you're using it professionally.