There are a about a million articles filled with do’s and dont’s on how to handle your social media reputation online. But what happens when it’s too late and you have already made a mistake? From general rudeness to a joke falling flat to making a bonehead mistake – it happens to all of us. Yes, all of us.
We all know the Internet has a memory that can rival any elephant, but fear not, there is recourse when you have erred and put your good name in harm’s way.
Here are a few Band-Aids.
– Revisit. Live with the item you perceive to be a slip-up for a period of time. Give it a few days, weeks or months and go back to the scene of the crime. Does it still bother you? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then you need to address the problem. The fast-moving nature of the Web has caused many of us to believe we need to act immediately. While in some cases that is true, in many, you have time to take a deep breath, collect your thoughts and remove yourself from the situation before reacting or over-reacting.
– Don’t be afraid to unpublish. Since people love taking screenshots, filling their browser cache to the limit and visiting the Wayback Machine, you will never fully erase your social faux pas – but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it everyday. A silly mistake can have a detrimental effect on your career, so do not be sacred to take it back. If you have remorse over a Wall comment or post you have published, don’t be bashful about hitting the delete button. There’s a reason Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and all other social media players have it as an option.
Yes, there will be people who will argue that eliminating text goes against the transparency that makes social media tick. But I challenge that. This is YOUR life and you don’t really owe a stranger or reader any explanation. If you decide to toss something into the trash bin, it’s wise to address the fact that you have removed a comment/tweet/post in order to keep your credibility intact.
– Make your internal debate public. Controversial topics often make for compelling content. See if there’s a way you can build on your “mistake” in a positive way. Perhaps you can solicit your audience’s opinion on what to do; Offer readers a poll; Write a follow-up comment/post explaining your original thinking. The less you leave open to interpretation, the more control you have over your own brand.
In my conversations with friends and family, it also appears that social media users are filled with regret over sharing a personal information. Whether it’s a comment about how much you hate work or a complaint about your spouse, if it makes you feel bad down the road, don’t live with regret, just hit delete. It’s your life, you make the rules.