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TweetSocial media: we love it. It’s the first thing we see in the morning and the last thing we see before bed. We can’t be away from it for more than two hours, and that’s even pushing it. As much as we love social media and want to believe it will never turn its back on us, it is possible that it could happen if we aren’t careful. It could turn into our own worst enemy.

We are always representing a brand in some way, shape or form. Whether that brand is a company, a team, or ourselves, what we decide to post on social media reflects that brand. One tweet can cause an enormous social media crisis.

In order to avoid a social media crisis there are a few steps a brand can take:

Engage, engage, engage. It is important to engage with your audience. Dialogue helps build a brand’s personality and create trust. If a crisis were to happen, your audience would already have a sense of loyalty and confidence in you.

Have a plan. Problems are sure to arise at some point when it comes to social media. If you have a plan on what steps need to be taken if and when a crisis arrives, it will make life a lot easier.

Don’t try to brush mistakes under the rug. Transparency is key with an audience. In order to gain trust, you have to acknowledge criticism and deal with any issues right away.

Be cool. It is hard to be criticized, especially when a problem was never your intent. Don’t get defensive with your audience. Apologize, own up to your mistakes, and be cool.

Why wouldn’t we love social media? It connects us to the rest of the world and brings people together. As much as we love it, we have to be careful with it. It can turn its back on us and break our hearts at the tap of a screen. If we use these steps, we can keep our brands flawless and representative of who we are.

-Annie Beard is a junior studying strategic communication. Follow her at @annie_beard.