The beauty of social media is that you can instantly share anything with your friends, followers, and the world. The downside of social media is that you can instantly share anything with your friends, followers, and the world.

With Twitter and Facebook, we have amazing opportunities to share our messages and thoughts with tons of people at one time. However, with this ability comes a lot of responsibility, and sometimes we forget about that associated responsibility.

And it’s not only everyday folks like you and me who sometimes don’t think before we tweet, but huge corporations as well. Take clothing retailer Gap, for example. In October 2012, while the East Coast was in the midst of Hurricane Sandy, the retail company tweeted the following:

As we all know too well, Hurricane Sandy caused massive devastation and people not only lost their homes, but many lost their lives or were badly injured. Although most people were indoors as they waited out the storm, using a natural disaster to sell clothing is never a good idea.

Gap wasn’t alone in its insensitivities, however. American Apparel also jumped on the bandwagon and sent around the below email to its subscribers.

On the outside looking in, we think we would never post, email or tweet something so inappropriate. Yet, it happens all the time. With social media so available, we often just type whatever we’re feeling and then think of the ramifications later.

To avoid PR blunders like the above, here are some things you should keep in mind before hitting submit.

1. Think Of Yourself As A Brand.

Anything you post on social media is essentially an extension of yourself and you will be associated with whatever thoughts or images you share. In addition, as an employee of a company, you are often thought of as a representative of that organization. So, not only must you think about your own personal brand, but you must be cognizant of your professional brand as well. At our public relations firm, we are all marketing savages with a love of social media marketing. We also know we’re an extension of the lotus823 brand, and as such, we are aware of the effects of our posts or tweets.

2. Stop and think before hitting submit.

In the heat of the moment, we often just send out a tweet or post on Facebook before even considering what we are saying. To avoid sending out a message that you may regret later, it’s always best to stop, process what you want to say, and then hit submit. If after a few moments you still want to post a curt response, then go ahead and just be ready for the consequences.

3. Consider the audience.

We all have social media followers that sometimes post questionable things on Facebook or tweet out something that may be offensive. Before inflicting that same feeling on your friends, think of who is going to be reading your updates. If your whole company follows you on Twitter, it is definitely best to avoid complaining about your job on social media. As a good rule of thumb, always consider who will be reading your updates. You never know what one funny comment to you may mean to someone else that is close to you.

Do you have any other social media tips? We’d love to hear what you do to avoid PR disasters through social channels.

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