Sin and salvation within your reach
Imagine being in a room with your best friends, your idols and all the time in the world to kibitz, share and ask questions. Welcome to social media cocktail hour – it starts when you login to your favorite hangout. Anything goes here: I love you, I like you and I’m so done with you. Like bar stools and the holy trinity, all good (and not-so-good) things come in threes.
If you’re a brand at the cocktail party, welcome to your new religion. If you’re lucky (and smart enough) to grow a community, it can become your church. Belly up to the altar and drink the wine of acceptance – because you’ve arrived.
But what happens when you make a mistake, say something puts your brand and reputation at risk? Do you have a social media crisis plan in place? Do you know where and how to repent for your sins?
Social media sinners
I’ve worked for big and small companies and many share a trait that never ceases to amaze me – they don’t plan for a crisis in social media. I’ve seen astronomical investments for sensitivity training, CPR certification – even a chain of command in case of a bomb threat. All good things to prepare for but what
if when something goes wrong in social media?
That would NEVER happen to us – we’re simply too awesome.
First lesson in the catechism: yes it can happen. Second lesson – you’re not as awesome as you think.
When the recession hit in 2009, I was serving as communication director for a well-respected manufacturer. When times got tough and bills went unpaid, suppliers panicked. When phone calls didn’t generate action, some of them miraculously discovered social media. It was a mass epiphany from people who’d ignored that medium previously.
As the company spokesperson and community manager, I became the target. Trouble is, social media was so new and we hadn’t anticipated being crucified by a group of people who didn’t know a Facebook update from a tweet. And we hadn’t anticipated they’d reach past the company profile and target employee’s personal accounts. Couple poor planning with a tanking economy and our happy, healthy community lynched us and then abandoned us in our moment of need.
- If you create a community, engage with it – don’t just monitor it
o Most customer service issues begin with simple questions
o Take questions off-line with phone calls
o Put your customer’s needs first – always
2. A canned apology isn’t good enough
o Social media is a tool and communication during a crisis needs to be personal
o Social media is not a press release – it must be real and honest to be effective
o Every person who posts (positive or negative) deserves a response
- Timing is of the essence
o Even in 2009, a weekend was too long for the company to wait to respond
o All hands are on deck during a crisis – no exceptions
If you’re using social media in your company, it’s time to map out your crisis path. Now. Before something happens. Remember, not every crisis is truly a crisis. Most of the time, there are a million opportunities to fix the problem before it hits the airwaves.
If you’re on social media as a brand, the tips below will help you create a crisis plan. Take my advice: do it now before you need it. As awesome as we are, we all need to plan for when we’re not so awesome.
Social media crisis plan
- Create a decision flowchart
o Use simple instructions for those involved. If this happens, that follows and this person is contacted, etc.
o Attach accountability and responsibility to each action so everyone understands their roles
o Align it with your traditional communication plan
- Assign a spokesperson
o Message is sculpted by the team and/or decision-makers in the company
o One voice carries one message – amplified by others if needed
- Do fire drills
o Practice so employees can see how tactical responses align with your over-arching business goals
o The more comfortable staff are in *what if* situations, the more comfortable they’ll be massaging the message in a real disaster
- Respect the clock
o Time is of the essence in social media – 24 hours is too long
o All hands are on deck, checking in with gatekeepers
About Julia Rosien
Julia Rosien is the Brand Engineer for Restonic, a leading international bedding company with 29 manufacturing facilities throughout the world, including North America, the Far East, Europe, India, Brazil, Middle Eastand South Africa. She is the official online hostess of all of Restonic’s digital properties. When she’s not tweeting, facebooking or pinteresting she serves as Chair for Withit.org, a non-profit organization for women in the home and furnishings industries. Follow her on Twitter, friend her on Facebook or connect on LinkedIn – she’s always on.
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