Putting Out Fires on Social Media: 6 Actions to Take
August 16, 2013
You may not be a Fortune 500 corporation, but you can still get burned by bad mojo on the web. Here’s how to respond.
“The bigger they are…” certainly applies to customer crises on social media. We’ve all read the inevitable articles and Tweets and blog posts that get published when a highly-visible company has a public relations crisis because of something they said — or something that was said about them.
As a small business, you’re not likely to make the front page of the Huffington Post if you broadcast a Tweet that was supposed to be a Direct Message, or an articulate, credible customer takes you to task publicly for a legitimate problem with your products. But you can still suffer some serious damage.
So know in advance how you’re going to handle such a situation. Write down your plan and make sure all of the company principals keep a copy handy. Here are some suggested steps to consider when you’re anticipating needing damage control:
- Create a scale for ranking web-based mayhem. Have a way to express the seriousness of the potential problem in numbers. Look carefully at each situation and evaluate how serious the outcome could be, based in part on how fast and furiously feedback is coming in. Make sure that it’s legitimate before you mobilize the troops.
- Limit input from all employees and anyone else closely tied to your company and its social presence. If the ramifications of the incident are serious, you want one unified response coming from anyone associated with you. Don’t let an advocate compound the situation.
- Enlist your best thinker and your best writer to craft an acknowledgement. If you’re not sure whether an apology is warranted, don’t offer one. Find a diplomatic, simple, friendly way to say that you’re aware all hell has broken loose, and that you will be addressing the situation publicly soon. Your tone here is very important. Don’t sound devastated by what’s happened, but neither should you be too cavalier. It’s a delicate balance.
- Keep your message unified and consistent. Make sure that everyone who represents your company on social networks is singing the same tune. Have just one representative veer off the official line, and you might trigger yet another crisis.
- Don’t sanitize your online venues. Follow the same rules for policing your web-based real estate as you normally do. Yes, delete obscene, abusive, vulgar and violent content, but don’t shut down legitimate gripes.
- Monitor and manage. Keep an eagle eye on your social media sites once the official word goes out explaining your position on the situation. Create an efficient reporting system so that any problems get funneled to the right individual ASAP.
Once you have a chance to breathe, sit down with your key people and try to put controls in place that will prevent a similar scenario from occurring in the future. Don’t beat yourself up (or anyone else) too much about it. It does happen to the best of them.
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