Social Media Crisis Management

    Sam Mutimer

    The horrors social media can put you through and how to handle them
    The words “dog” and “rugby” will give very different search engine results since a couple of weeks ago, when Joel Monaghan shocked Australia by being in a sexual picture with a dog. Imagine being the manager of this rugby player (after you imagine what horrors the dog must have gone through) and seeing that one tweet of this photo can become an article in every newspaper and can ruin a career. Now imagine something like this happening to your company, I’m not saying your employees are likely to be involved in bestiality, but who knows what can happen!

    The horror that social media can become in cases like this is one of the reasons many companies run away screaming like little babies when we bring it up. You can run but you can’t hide and somewhere, somehow social media, or your employees on it will catch up on you and you will need to handle it!
    Here are the biggest three threats in social media for businesses and the how to handle them.
    1. Employees misbehaving online.
    The Joel Monaghan case is a perfect example of this, and you probably have heard about the Domino’s Pizza employees who posted a YouTube video doing awful things with what goes on your pizza. Your employers are on social media in their own time and whether they are sharing things about your company or not, what they do online effects who they work for.
    2.Employees spending all their time on social networks while at the office
    Let’s face it, it is very easy to find yourself distracted by a photo of a friend on Facebook only to realize half an hour later that you’ve seen all of your friends photo’s. For many companies the concern here is not only the amount of hours that should be spent on work and is actually spent online but also what is shared on there. Studies say that 17 % of the companies report that they have investigated the posting of confidential, sensitive or private information to a social network, such as Facebook or Linkedin.
    3. Consumers sharing bad things about your company
    In the Netherlands a comedian named Youp van ‘t Hek decided to tweet about his problems with mobile phone provider T-mobile after spending hours hopelessly calling their helpdesk. His 45 000 followers picked up on this and within hours thousands of tweets, comments, blogs and a column in a major newspaper were written about the bad service T-mobile provides. Costing them approximately 200 000 Euros in damage to their image!
    Now you may not be a huge company that is known al over a country but on social media thoughts and opinions spread fast and far. Even more when negative things are said than positive. You simply can not ignore what the power of social media could do to (or for) your company, even if you are not active on the platforms itself.
    In all these cases the publicity means a whole lot of attention for your brand. The attention may be bad at the time, but with the right attitude you can show everybody watching what your brand is made of. If you don’t want a social media crisis to turn in a big disaster, here are some rules for you to follow:

    1. Monitoring: in order to know what is being said about you online, who is saying it and where it is being said you need to work with monitoring tools such as SocialMention and Google Alerts and find all the conversation that is going on about your company.
    2. Have a strategy ready! Write down a strategy about what you will do when a social media crisis appears, what tools you need, how long it will take and exactly who will handle it. Within a few hours bad news can be all over the web, you don’t have time to think of a plan when it happens.
    3. React and interact. You have to act fast and respond almost immediately to things being said about your brand, so you have to know where the conversation is and keep it going. Make sure you talk about the problems, admit when you make mistakes and show that you understand.
    4. Be transparent. There is no choice but to be open and honest. For most large companies this may sound like their worst nightmare, but this is the way to go. You don’t have to show the world which secretary sleeps with which boss, you just have to show the world what your brand stands for and that it can be trusted.  A good way to show this and respond to negative attention is by sending a personal message, this could be a video, a blog or a press conference. This will show that your company understands what has gone wrong. Domino’s for instance posted a video on YouTube in response to their crisis, saying the employees were fired and they would find out exactly what had happened.
    5. Train your employees. The biggest problem with employees being on social media is that they don’t know how to use it. Make them aware of how to handle social media, how they can use it for marketing and what impact it can have when certain negative things are shared. Your employers know the company the best, so use it as a tool! Happy employees will spread good things about your company. Ignoring or forbidding the use of social media at work, is ignoring a big part of life nowadays, this is where things happen and information can be found. You just have to set rules for it.
    6. Don’t forget Google. In a matter of minutes the search results of your company on Google can change into a large list of all the negative publicity that has been spread about you. Make sure you share enough positive things, respond to all the publicity and consider buying ads on Google stating your apology or explanation. Wikipedia will add the negative publicity to it’s description immediately, make sure to change this or add your response to it.

    Whatever you will do with this information, you can’t say we didn’t warn you 😉
    Don’t run away from a social media crisis. Embrace it and see the potential!
    Was this article totally useless to you because you are already fully prepared for a social media crisis? We want to know how you handle it!