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Here’s a look at practices that your business can put in place to prevent these incidents, plus tips to diffuse them, should you be caught in the crosshairs.

Prevention means training

Justine Sacco, Adria Richards, Gene Morphis and their employers were forced to deal with the aftermath of their tweets. For Sacco, Richards and Morphis, that meant finding new jobs. For their companies, it meant healing their bruised reputations. But in fact, according to Rob Begg, VP of enterprise strategy at Hootsuite, a popular social media management tool, both situations were preventable.

Most businesses lean on social media policies to detail rules and acceptable use, but that alone isn’t enough, Begg says.

“Most companies are pretty good about having social media policies in place, but what most lack is social media training,” he says. “Not everyone understands what’s private and public or what you can and can’t share. Not many employees understand why all of this is so important.”

In addition to tactical training on how to use social media, corporate training should also cover the strategic side, Begg says. For example, employees should learn how to curate and share content that reflects their personal and professional brand.

Businesses can easily cover both in an hour-long session, he adds. “You don’t need to make this arduous. When you’re onboarded at Hootsuite, for example, a social media coach shows up and says, ‘This is how we look at social media, here are the things you should think about before you share something.'”

Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management, says that, in his 30-plus years in crisis management, 90% of incidents have been entirely preventable through training.

“Crises that originate online like viral tweets are easily preventable, which is why it reflects so poorly on your whole organization when something like this happens,” he says. “It makes people question your training, hiring and supervision.”

Training employees on social media best-practices has other advantages, too: “Not only do companies that train employees have a better chance at avoiding embarrassing or destructive situations,” Begg says, “they benefit because well-trained employees feel more comfortable sharing the things that companies actually want them to share.”

5 steps to defusing a social media crisis