The Challenge: No company is immune to the possibility of damaging comments, posts and tweets. So how do businesses prepare for unwanted attention on far-reaching social channels? Here, we look at a few companies that have weathered the storm and provided some valuable lessons.
Step 1: Create a social media crisis plan before a crisis erupts. That way, you can address damaging comments and reactions swiftly and professionally. By having a plan in place, you hit the ground running -- a critical step when a social media firestorm ignites. In April 2010, BP had no plan when it found itself in the midst of a crisis when oil spilled into to the Gulf of Mexico. Sadly, the company made several missteps. It failed to own up to what happened, it made statements that didn't align with the truth, and it lacked follow-through with solutions.
Click here to sign up for Ernan's Weekly Insights email.
Step 2: It is a given that customers will share service snafus and other experiences online, so it's imperative that companies monitor what is being said. KFC learned this the hard way when a disgruntled customer posted unsightly pictures of an unusual-looking substance in his chicken. The fast food chain did little to address the questionable photograph. Instead, it continued to post its regular stream of marketing messages, making it appear as if the company was trying to ignore the situation at hand. Monitor messages, evaluate and adjust your plan as needed.
KitchenAid faced a similar crisis when an employee accidentally sent an insensitive tweet during a presidential debate using the company's twitter handle. KitchenAid responded quickly and with sincerity, effectively lessening backlash. Specifically, the company acknowledged the mistake, took responsibility for what happened and apologized to President Barack Obama and other Twitter followers.
Key Takeaways for Marketers:
1. Monitor your presence online. Follow online conversations so you know when potentially damaging situations are developing/have occurred. Gatorade uses a sophisticated social media command center to keep tabs on social media activity. Other companies choose to designate a point person to monitor online conversations and do periodic searches relevant to the company's brand.
2. Act quickly. When it comes to social media, you don't have days or weeks to come up with a plan. An offensive tweet can go viral in the span of a few hours. Don't sit on your response. Instead, address situations as quickly as you can -- preferably within 24 hours.
3. Remember that transparency is vital. In most cases, you don't want to delete damaging posts and pictures. Instead, you want to respond quickly and with tact. Apologize, and focus on solutions. If emotionally-charged discussions get out of hand, direct the conversation offline. For example; “We'd be happy to discuss this with you to find the best solution. What number can we reach you?”.