Make It

Hootsuite CEO gives out advice for when you mess up on social media

Regret a tweet or a Facebook post you recently sent? Received negative comments for it? Wish you could take it back?

The CEO of a major Canadian social media management firm has been there, and he's got some advice for you. If you're in the wrong, own your mistakes, apologize and be transparent.

Ryan Holmes, chief executive officer of Hootsuite Media Inc.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Ryan Holmes, chief executive officer of Hootsuite Media Inc.

"Earlier this year, I had a little exchange with a journalist online, sent a tweet out that I later regretted – it actually went very viral the whole exchange. I apologized for the message," Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, told CNBC's "Life Hacks Live" series.

In February 2017, Bloomberg published an article called "Hootsuite: The unicorn that never was", where the business news agency looked into whether the company was a unicorn – a start-up worth at least $1 billion.

In the article, Bloomberg explained that the firm had raised $60 million back in September 2014 at a reported valuation of $1 billion, however according to people familiar with the matter, the valuation was more between $700 million and $750 million.

Shortly afterwards, the CEO of Hootsuite wrote on Twitter that the headline was "salacious" and questioned whether the article had received comment from Hootsuite before the story was filed.

Then what followed was a Twitter exchange between the CEO and the journalist that included the CEO telling the reporter to try him on "1 (800) 328-3425", which BuzzFeed discovered was a number for a paid sex hotline. Holmes did go on to apologize for his comments. You can see the exchange here:

Reflecting back on the whole exchange, Holmes said that when you make a mistake such as this exchange, if you're in the wrong and need to apologize, the best thing to do is apologize and be clear.

"I talk a lot about getting leaders into social media, that there's a lot of leaders that are sitting on the sidelines. I think the elephant in the room for so many of these leaders is what happens when you screw up, what happens when you mess up," said Holmes.

"That could be someone from a small start-up, all the way through to big global companies. It happens."

"And the lesson I learned out of that is that when you screw up and you actually need to apologize, you apologize, you be transparent. You talk about how you're going to remedy it if you need to, you own it."

Speaking at the Viva Technology conference in Paris, Holmes said despite the exchange going viral, the "news cycle does move on and people are willing to forgive and move on as well."

When reflecting upon how to deal with criticism in general as a leader, the CEO said it was worth trying to be non-egotistical when you receive and digest all sorts of criticism.

He added that it was also worth trying to "take the filters down on being defensive" when somebody says something to you, and try to understand what the message is and why people have said it.

When asked whether there was – or ever has been – an aggression issue within the tech industry, Holmes said the sector overall was having "some pretty candid thoughts and discussions" around the topics of diversity and inclusion, and that the exchange he had with the reporter had somewhat inspired Hootsuite to expand upon their training when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and media.

"I think the industry as a whole though is heading in a very positive direction. I think that we're seeing that there's so much better benefit in business in having diversity and inclusion at the table, and so I think there's some positive change underway right now."

Life Hacks Live is a series produced by CNBC International for Facebook, where tomorrow's leaders get to ask some of the world's biggest influencers for advice. You can watch the full interview here.