It’s only a matter of time before you find yourself involved in a social media crisis. What causes these disasters and how should you react once hit?
While 140 characters may not sound like much, even a tiny tweet can be enough to cause controversy without being nearly enough to provide context. While you can never predict a disaster common issues have included:
- Statements taken out of context
- Employees over-reacting to irate customers
- Differences in opinion around sensitive subjects like politics and religion
- Issues with your website, customer service department, etc.
- Automation gone amok
- Postings accidentally made to a corporate instead of personal account
- Stolen passwords and other malicious acts
The first step to minimizing the impact of any social media crisis is to identify the issue early. Social media simply can’t be a one-person, 9-5 job. Your audience is online around the clock and if something goes wrong at 5pm on a Friday you can rarely afford to wait 64 hours (or more with time zones) to react.
If you can, define what’s normal for your brand, monitor activity and set up alerts for when something out of the ordinary happens. Say you regularly get 5 mentions a day but 100 came through in the last hour alone? Either something went very right or something went very wrong.
Even if you can’t set up automated alerts, make sure that your own employees know who manages your social media efforts and ensure that they know how to get in touch with them, even off hours. There’s nothing more frustrating for a dedicated employee than to see a disaster in the making but also be helpless to do anything about it.
Once you’ve identified the social media crisis, don’t wait to respond. Even a straight forward “We’re are aware of and are looking into the issue” post can buy time and let your followers know that you’re not ignoring the issue. Any attempt to intentionally ignore, delete content related to the issue and/or try to cover it up can often backfire and make a very simple mistake into a PR nightmare.
Resolution & Next Steps
Two words: Be honest.
What’s done is done, either a mistake was made and steps are being taken to prevent it from happening again or a malicious act was taken by a representative of the brand that is being reprimanded.
It’s a well-known, however ironic, fact that people think more highly of companies providing top-notch customer service than those companies that they’ve never had an issue with. While you’d never want to create an artificial incident just for the chance to respond, opening up, in detail, about exactly what occurred behind the scenes when a real incident has occurred can often lead to better brand recognition and customer loyalty.
Brian Makas is the Director of Marketing Technology & Business Intelligence at ThomasNet. His goal is to identify where technology can be strategically applied to solve day to day problems as well as drive the business forward.
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