Social media continues to grow in popularity and power everyday. Prominent companies, small businesses and even powerful political figures are taking advantage of what social media has to offer. Many companies and public figures outsource social media management to others. This helps them maintain their image without executives getting bogged down with always being connected online. While this helps many companies, it also opens the door for mishaps and misrepresentation of the brand. What may seem like a small issue could leave devastating effects to a product and its image in the public eye.

When someone works as a part of your social media team, they are obviously savvy in the field. This means that they have their own accounts that they actively use and update. Unfortunately, this means that rash, passionate tweets or updates can be sent without realizing the person is still logged into the company account. Depending on the offensiveness of the tweet, an entire public relations emergency could ensue. Luckily, there are smart steps that companies can take during even the smallest social media mishap.

A company must first and foremost take complete responsibility for the mishap and send out a sincere apology to the readers. Covering it up or pretending like it didn’t happen will only cause a larger upset among your readership. Promptly delete the tweet or update and send out an immediate note apologizing for the mishap (if it is something offensive, include a statement saying that the tweet was in no way a representation of the brand).

Once you have taken responsibility for the company, remove the person that caused the mishap. This is no time for second chances. There are plenty of responsible social media consultants that won’t be careless with your brand. Calmly let the offender know that you will not need their services any longer.

Now it is time to get ahead of any news articles that may surface on the web. Quickly get a writer to construct a press release regarding the situation. Send it out to any prominent blogs or websites that may catch wind of this mishap. You can also post a press release on your own website to formally apologize to your consumer base.

Things online can go viral in a matter of moments. As a business owner, you must understand how to handle mishaps that can occur online., Inc. review best practices for dealing with issues that may arise online. Remember, always respond delicately and quickly in these kinds of instances that may arise.