isA social media crisis is can have a negative effect on a business’ reputation. They’re caused by something that occurs offline and is then brought to social media channels, or they begin on social media channels, and then spread. Social networking is a very powerful promotional tool for businesses. As Spiderman said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
The same is true for social media. With access to an information network that’s directly connected to your target audience, you are responsible for ensuring that every tweet, post, picture, and ‘like’ doesn’t open up your company to a social media disaster.
There’s always a news story about a business suffering from a public relations meltdown on social media. One ill-thought-out post quickly spirals out of control. Suddenly a whole raft of negative feelings and emotions is poured into the social media channels causing a great deal of damage to their public image.
So what are the main types of social media crises? They tend to come in two main varieties: those caused within an organization, and those that are external.
The most destructive social media crises come from mistakes publicized by internal sources. It is within your power to prevent any damage to your brand by stopping them before they even happen.
The first thing you can do is prevent a crisis occurring in the first place. It sounds simple, but the following steps will help to substantially reduce the risk of a social media meltdown.
Keeping your accounts safe is a big priority. The best route is to use a different password for every account associated with your business. Think about it this way: if you use the same password for everything, when a hacker gets access to one of your accounts, they’ll have access to everything. Even large companies have fallen victim to account security issues. For example, in 2013, hackers took control of Burger King’s Twitter profile. They changed its picture to the McDonald’s logo and said that it would adopt McDonald’s branding. They also sent messages claiming the company had been taken over. As far as hacking goes, it could have been a lot more sinister. This example was pure mischief-making, but it caused a lot of embarrassment for Burger King. It also created havoc among the company’s 5,000,000 followers.
Before a social media crisis develops, there is usually an upwelling of a negative commentary first. There are lots of monitoring tools out there that can help you access what’s being said about your company. By searching the name of your company or setting up filters, track when something is said about your business and/or brand.
As any good customer service manual will tell you that you need to limit the initial damage before it spirals out of hand. For social media, this means dealing with the aggrieved party in private messages. Sometimes, however, you also might need to post a public response to show you are dealing with the problem and care about your customers.
It is crucial to have a staff social media plan in place for your business. Think carefully about how you want your employees to use social media. The music retail giant, HMV, recently discovered this to their cost, when disgruntled employee used the official HMV Twitter account to chronicle the firing of 50 of its employees.
The answer isn’t simply blocking their access to social media at work. However, you need to make your company policies very clear as to what is allowed to be discussed, where, and when.
You also need to establish who ‘owns’ your accounts. For example, Phonedog, the phone review network, got a shock when an employee and Twitter handler left the company taking 14,000 followers with him. They are not the only ones. Many other businesses have fallen foul of key members of staff leaving, taking what is seen to be a personal account with them and having direct access to clients as a result.
It may sound obvious, but do you really know your hashtags from your direct messages? Make sure that whoever is operating your social media channels is fully trained and understands the subtleties of each social media channel. They are not all the same and they each come with their own set of rules and etiquette.
The effectiveness of responses to unfolding crises depends a lot on how appropriate the messages are.
Anything that you put on social media platforms, or anywhere else online, is subject to opinions and fact-checking. Therefore, it is vital that whatever you post is correct. Any inaccuracies will inevitably be flagged and cause damage to your company image and brand.
If you’ve worked directly with customers, you know it is in your best interest to be polite. You are still communicating with your audience. Albeit, through a computer,≠+ there are no excuses for being rude.
Once you have published a post, people will see it. Even if you remove it, it is likely someone will have made an undeniable record of it.
DKNY was able to minimize what could have been a complete meltdown. The company was caught using Brand Stanton’s imagery in a storefront without his permission. He publicly declared that they should pay a $100,000 compensation towards a New York children’s charity. DKNY listened to the negative commentary and promptly made a donation of $25,000 with an apology.
Don’t delete what you see as the worst negative comments. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but people are angered when they feel that their messages are being silenced. It also portrays the message that your business may have poor customer service and communication skills. Being able to handle criticism professionally and effectively can be a life saver during a social media crisis.
Having a plan in place is a must, should a public relations meltdown occur. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive, but it should identify key people to deal with the problem. Set a timeframe in which a resolution needs to be found, and have the backing of key decision-makers.
When a B2B service provider had its servers affected by a fire, they showed a notable example of handling a social media crisis well. With service lost, clients were unable to contact technical support, view the website, or access any online portal.
Their internet marketer moved the support teams over to their social media channels and answered users’ questions directly through Facebook and Twitter. Whilst the situation wasn’t ideal, they were able to quickly address the concerns of clients, make sure people understood what was happening, and explain how they were able to rectify it.
Be sure to listen to people, be responsible, and be sensitive to current issues. If the worst does happen, take control with a plan. Give feedback, be polite, and most importantly, listen to your audience. At Boat Marketing Pros, we offer social media marketing services for businesses in the marine industry. Contact us today if you need help creating a social media crisis action plan to save your business from a downfall in the future.