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"I'm Sorry Taylor" -@KanyeWest Even jerks like Kanye West realize the power of saying they're sorry through social media.

You know the old saying, it takes a real man to say he’s sorry.  Same goes for companies operating in the world of social media. When there’s a problem – whether it be a technical glitch or an inappropriate comment – you can’t hide it. The best and worst part of social media is the fact that messages travel instantly and once out there they can be linked, forwarded or retweeted a million times over. The leaders of the social media game know enough to admit when they’re wrong, apologize and move on.

Mario Sundar, social media expert for LinkedIn, wrote a great post about the Top 5 Corporate Blog Apologies. My personal fav is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg “We really messed this one up.”.

What’s great about all the apologies Mario selected is that they sound real. They sound like what your boyfriend or best friend would write. They embrace the casual, real nature of social media and don’t try to dance around the issue with corporate speak. This quote from the Hugh Macleod at the 2010 Online Marketing Summit sums it up nicely:  “If you talk to people in social media the way advertising talked to people they’d punch you in the face.”

Transparency is important to organizations when using social media because you are speaking to your followers on what should feel like a personal level and, if they sense you are lying, they will cut you from their social network. Companies should be injecting some personality into their posts, and with personality comes the risk of saying something that could be misunderstood. But without risk there is no reward so speak freely to your followers and build that interaction. If every social media comment has to be approved by a committee then you’ll never say anything.

Are there limits to transparency during a crisis? Sure, but you just need to be smart about it. Don’t share information that will put you at a competitive disadvantage or violate privacy agreements. Don’t allude to things that are still in the idea stage and don’t name names.  Look professional, take responsibility as a company and promise to do better in the future. You don’t have to admit the scale of the mistake or go into details of your business strategy.  In most cases a simple apology will be sufficient. Unless you’re Kanye.

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