Unhappy customers are bad for business, so handle a social media crisis carefully
What do you do when someone in your company makes a public mistake? You might be saying, our company doesn’t make mistakes. Or you might think, “This will never happen to us. Our customers like us.” If it hasn’t happened yet – don’t get too comfortable, because every company makes mistakes. You may not have had a crisis, but at some point in time, you will.
Sometimes a response to a comment on a social media site will make a person mad. Haters will take this and make it into a large episode. An online crisis can affect your sales. Unhappy customers are bad for business, so handle a social media crisis carefully.
Social media damage control
How to respond. This might just be the most important question you can ask yourself. How your company responds is extremely important.
An example of a crisis in the news is Applebees The person at the table crossed out the 18% tip and wrote “I only give the Lord 10% so why should I give you 18%?”. Two employees of Applebees posted a picture of the receipt on Reddit. Applebees response was sharp and abrupt. Applebees fired the two employees. Many of the Reddit users got angry, to say the least. The Reddit community was angry about the two wait staff getting fired.
In this example, Applebees responded to the Reddit post by firing the two employees. Eventually, the two employees got their jobs back, but in the mean time, Applebees had some bad press that could have been avoided if the corporate office had reacted differently.
Top 10 Tips for Damage Control during a Social Media Crisis:
1. Never have a canned PR message for social media.
Be human. Be social. Present the organization as human and real. A canned message makes your company come across as a cold, in-human organization and no one wants to do business with a company like that. So, even if your response is a little delayed, it is always better to compose a real response, rather than use a canned one.
2. When a company becomes aware of a social media crisis, the first thing you should do is understand what happened.
Reach out and listen to both sides of the story. Based on the information gathered, you should ask yourself what should be done next. Don’t reply instantly! Take the time to plan your response, rather than just react. It’s okay to take a step back and evaluate the situation before reacting. It’s okay to say, “We have been made aware of the situation and we are looking into it”. If it takes 24-48 hours to compose a response, be sure to communicate and say “We continue to investigate and we will respond as soon as we have gathered all the facts and reviewed the situation”.
The key is communication. A reasonable amount of time to respond is less than 24 hours, but if it is a complex situation, do not rush to respond. TAKE YOUR TIME. Think about these very important key questions before you respond:
- At what point do you keep it contained rather than acknowledging it because by acknowledging it, the crisis can get bigger?
- Should you respond or should you wait for it to pass?
- How do you know when to make a public statement and when to not?
These questions are relevant, but they can not be answered in general terms because each situation is different. Read on…
3. Social media MOB MENTALITY
Yes, there is a social media “mob mentality”. People can get really nasty. So, to slow the mob mentality, you can say things like, “As we continue to go through this process we will keep you updated” and stay true to your word. The key is communication. If you do not communicate, you have already lost the battle.
4. Which social media channels are appropriate?
We recommend posting a response in the same social network where the crisis is happening.
5. Take ownership and Own it!
“We understand there is an issue. I am the leader of this organization. Here is what I personally am going to do.” Or you can say something like, “Look, this is my organization. I lead the organization. Even though it wasn’t me who did this, I take responsibility for this. These are the steps that we have implemented to fix it.”
6. Don’t fall into a defensive instinct.
Don’t get defensive. The situation will spin out of control, if you get offended. Don’t take it personally. Take a step back and look at it from a bigger picture. What happened? What should have happened? How do we communicate going forward? Don’t get defensive and spin your wheels. Look at it strategically.
7. Sometimes the story told is a fable.
Key facts can get blurred and the story told on social media or review sites is a fable. People will see a story on another site, then add their two cents to it. Then, as the story grows, it is not even accurate! Its okay to say, “You should know that there were mistakes made, but the story being sold on certain sites is not accurate.”
8. On social media or review sites, people can get really really nasty.
Some people create blog posts or reviews that are really bad and really inaccurate. Somebody will write a critical or negative blog post about a company and it turns into a match. Tell your side of the story, then let it be. You can cross reference the story as you have written about it on your own blog, then let it go. Otherwise you are adding fuel to the fire.
9. Define a plan.
Have the basics in place so that you are ready when the **** hits the fan. Practice humility. The plan should include notes to not go on the defense.
“I am sorry” are words that work very well. “I am sorry and here is what we are going to do to fix it” or “I am sorry and what can I do to make this right for you?” work well. You are going to have stuff that happens. It happens to everyone. Be a human being.
10. When do you hire an attorney?
Call on the cavalry as a last resort. You may be tempted to call in favors from friends, but you might want to resist that urge, because it can add fuel to the fire and create a war. There are times when you might call in friends to tell their side of the story.
The only time when you need to call in friends or hire an attorney is when its:
- People are saying untruths and it is the “telephone game”. A telephone game is any situation where information is passed on by a number of people and, in the process, the information becomes distorted.
It sucks that we need to have these procedures in place. It is unfortunate that people, at times, are not civil. But it’s the reality of our times.
People are critical and with social media, they have a platform.
It can happen to any organization. People are critical and with social media, they have a platform. If your running an organization, I can guarantee you that one day, there will be a crisis. When it happens, force yourself to be calm. Be rational. If necessary call in your PR firm or call in your attorney.
If you really need to write something, write it and don’t publish it!