You can take this to the bank: If you are a brand then you’ll experience a social media crisis.
Look at it this way. No brand in existence – not even the most popular and best-loved brands in the world – has ever avoided a negative phone call, a snarky email, a compliant letter or a customer who has yelled at a sales representative.
Social media has replaced those traditional channels for complaining about companies. Now unhappy customers write blog posts. They tweet about bad service. They rant about a poor product on Facebook. They write bad reviews on Yelp. If they feel really upset they start a petition on Change.org.
Social media is now the communications channel for complaints. It is where communications crises will start and where they will spread. It is where traditional media – newspapers, TV stations and magazines – will discover crises.
So what can you do when a social media crises strikes?
Here are a five pointers to consider.
- Don’t panic. Easier said than done, I know. When your Facebook page feels like a dart board and you’re a trending topic on Twitter it can feel like the world is opening up beneath your feet. It isn’t. Social media crises are like tornadoes. They strike fast and furious – and suddenly they are over. Few brand crises – at least the intense public parts – last more than a few days.
- Keep it in perspective. The whole world isn’t against you. It just feels that way. But a few hundred comments on Facebook (or even a few thousand) isn’t that many when compared with Facebook as a whole. There are more than 800 million people there after all. And if you start to read the comments closely you’ll find more positive and neutral comments than may be apparent at first. You’ll have your advocates. This isn’t to diminish the crisis, but keeping the audience numbers in perspective is important.
- Listen first. Make sure you have the right monitoring tools in place. Collect the data. Discover your advocates and your bad-vocates. Use the data to help make informed decisions.
- Avoid he said/she said. Nuance doesn’t plays poorly on social media. A tweet can only hold 140-characters. Trying to pick apart every minor error that your critics have leveled against you – no matter how inaccurate – will cloud your big messages. Stick to your knitting. Keep to the facts. Be precise and concise. Do not get sucked into an argument.
- Think reputation. It’s hard to win in the whirlwind of a social media crises. Individuals can react fast. They don’t have communications teams or processes to follow. Most crises break with the brand being forced to react and respond to a complaint or a situation. Most people believe the information they get first. Reactive responses don’t have that advantage. So remember – it is about your brand’s long-term reputation. Protect it. This means that listening, being polite and acknowledging the critics are important. In a crisis brands get points for being responsive and professional.