We’ve all had it happen before. Maybe on the way to a job interview, on a first date, it might even be happening to you right now. Sometimes there’s a good reason, but sometimes it just sneaks up on you and bam, there it is: sweaty armpits.

Those pit stains are like your mistakes in social media. It happens fast; it’s embarrassing; and there’s no way to cover it up.

It’s also 100% natural. And it happens to everyone. The question is? How do you react?

Stop Hiding it. You’re Only Making it Worse

pit stains
Image by susanlee828 via Flickr

Our natural reaction to sweaty armpits – or mistakes made in social media – is to cover it up. We fold our arms, we avoid raising our hands, and we act like nothing is happening.

But you know how it goes: The more you try to hide it, the worse it gets, and the more embarrassing it is when you finally are called out when the pit stain gets too big to conceal.

Don’t Skimp on that Layer of Protection

Before the perspiration, let’s talk preparation. This means operating in full disclosure – letting your audience and the general public know who you are, and what your affiliation is to the brand you’re representing.

It means having a disclaimer and letting people know that the point of view you express belong to you and you alone. Sure, you’re representing the company, but first and foremost, you are a fallible human being, saying human things. Sometimes, they may be subject to human error.

It also means establishing guidelines and sticking to them. Sure, you’re human, and you’re expressing your opinion, but you’re expressing them within a set of rules so you can avoid sticky situations before they start.

And finally, it means having a disaster plan that spells out how to respond if the sweat starts to seep and your Right Guard gets caught off guard.

Dude, You’re Kind of Grossing Me Out, What Does this Have to Do with Social Media Authenticity?

Don’t sweat it (HA!), there’s a point: Social media provides an opportunity to be real on behalf of your brand. And being real means being human and being ready to act like one. People will forgive you, but first you’ve got to:

Own up to it: Beat the people who will point out your perspiration to the punch. Acknowledge you’ve got something embarrassing going on and make light of it. It’ll show that you’re human, you have a sense of humor, and you’re not arrogant.

Your service site is having problems with up-time? Let people know you’re aware of it. Don’t act like it’s not happening, because everyone can see that it is. This will help curb the frustration and at least let the public know that situation is being acknowledged. They might even lower their pitchforks for a minute or two. And then you’ve got to:

Air it out: The only real way to get rid of a pit stain is to air it out. That’s also the only way to escape heat in today’s social media environment.

Be honest, candid and sincere and let the public know you made a mistake. Apologize and ask for forgiveness. Let them know you’re not happy with the situation and you’re doing everything you can to fix the issue.

Even the best deodorant can sometimes fail you, but being human, acknowledging the stain, and letting people get a good laugh can be the best move you can make.

And if that doesn’t work, you can always take your top off.

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About Andrew Hanelly

Andrew Hanelly

Andrew is SVP, Strategy for McMurry/TMG and for one semester in college, was a sociology major. He writes at Brain on Digital, as @hanelly on Twitter and here on Google+.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.TheMarketingSpotBlog.com Jay Ehret

    Good points, Andrew. But being real and transparent does not mean revealing everything about yourself. Sure, have a personality, but we don't need to know your darkest secrets and we probably don't want to hear your politics. People don't need to know everything about you, only what's relevant to them.

    • ahanelly

      Jay, I agree with you. Keep it on brand and on point. People are choosing to interact with you for a reason, most likely, so give them more of that reason. I guess what I tried to refer to in the post was when things do go wrong – when that 600 pound gorilla in the room is present.

      When people subscribe to your content (on email, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever), you're right to say that it doesn't mean they want to know everything you've ever thought about anything ever. Your comment added some much-needed value to this post, which I probably made a little too lighthearted.

      • http://www.themarketingspot.com Jay Ehret

        I don't think it was too lighthearted, Andrew. You were just letting your personality show through. Point taken on the 600lb Gorilla.

  • Myva

    Interesting analogy Andrew…but not all of us can just take our tops off!

    • ahanelly

      Haha! Good point, Myva. Though I would argue that it would be a great way to get more Twitter followers, though I can't speak for the quality of those followers. :)

      And thank you for calling it “interesting” instead of “grotesque” and “cringe-worthy,” which both would have applied here.

  • Jeff Larche

    Well done, Andrew. I am going to be sharing this with a group of content people involved with a non-profit. I think your advice can help them relax and start trying … and yes, occasionally failing!

    • ahanelly

      Jeff, glad to hear that. It's just another reminder that whether you are a consumer or a producer you're still a human. We all sweat. We all make mistakes. And we can all relate to each other when we recognize that. Everything else is just sort of fluff and posturing.

  • Stevewckrt
  • http://www.whitevector.com Mikko Rummukainen

    Thanks for the post, Andrew!

    This is an often overlooked but at the same time very important topic. Every now and then, you hear how clients talk about 'doing social media' and the whole process starts to sound automatic and sometimes even idiot-proof. “If we've made the right choices, and doing the right things, what could possibly go wrong?” seems to be the idea.

    Well, like you've pointed out, things that us humans do might happen. And while that's okay as such, it does help to understand that there are both good and bad ways to deal with having just failed in an epic manner.

    I agree that 'airing it out' is the way to go. Doing something by mistake gets forgotten and forgiven, but trying to cover things up, straight out lie to your public and other things of the shady kind will be remembered for much longer than the average life-span of a tweet, blog post or FB update.

    • ahanelly

      I appreciate you appreciating it, Mikko. Even the best drivers will sometimes make a mistake in traffic. It makes all the difference in the world if you just own up to it, wave a “sorry” style of wave, and move on. Owning up to a gaffe is the quickest way to stop people from resenting you for it.

  • http://socialmediatraininginc.com linkedwithryan

    I have used this without knowing it for years, especially on automotive forums. Where dirty laundry gets put out very quick if you upset someone.

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