3 Steps to Recovering from Social Media Backlash

Controversial content can lead to huge pageviews and shares. When innocuous content goes viral, there are generally few worries about negative feedback. The story can be very different for content that goes viral merely because of a controversy that surrounds it.

How many companies - large and small - have posted content that led to a social media backlash? We can probably all think of several examples. It's easier than ever before to take individuals and entities to task for objectionable material. Therefore, it's important for social media content to be carefully considered before hitting the submit button. And if you're not prepared for the possibility of a negative reaction, then it maybe wisest to change course and go in a different direction.

What should you do when you've (inadvertently) stepped over the line?

1) Assess the situation.
How widespread is the negative feedback? Is it gaining momentum that will hurt you? Can it be dealt with on an individual basis or does it warrant a wider public response? The answers to these questions should help determine the appropriate steps to rectify the situation.

2) Respond genuinely and promptly in all forums.
If it's appropriate to modify or take the content down, then it's probably appropriate to issue an apology as well. Even if the intention of the piece was not to offend, make that clear and give an apology that addresses the concerns that have been expressed. Insincerity, defensiveness or avoidance of the real issue will be exposed and create a bigger backlash.

3) Turn it around to something good.
Want to show your followers that you mean what you say? Back it up with action. Depending on the situation, it may be appropriate to donate time, money and/or resources to raising awareness about the related issue.

Edgy, attention-grabbing content is the goal of every individual and entity active in social media today. But efforts to create a unique campaign that spreads can backfire easily if the content strikes the wrong chord with your audience. And if you've had fallout from a campaign once, the last thing you want is to repeat it in the future.

What are some examples of social media backlash? How was it handled? Was the response appropriate and effective?