No matter how savvy and experienced your social media team is, mishaps can happen in the world of social media. Most of the time, mistakes are harmless, such as typo errors or misspelling of a name. It will not be elevated to become a crisis if your followers are sympathetic and when the mistakes are forgivable. Sometimes if they make a mockery of the incident, the tweet might even go viral and generates some branding opportunities (however, exercise with great cautious).
On the other hand, if brands offended their followers or customers which triggers a massive social outrage due to lack of sensitivity and bad practices, then be prepared to face a crisis. For example, when New England Patriots became the first NFL team to reach 1 million Twitter followers, they set up an automated thank you message to its fans with an image of the fans’ Twitter account names emblazon on the back of a Patriot’s jersey. Unfortunately, with no monitoring a thank you message was tweeted to a racist Twitter handle.
Inappropriate usage of content could also put a brand in a spotlight. In March 2013, London Luton Airport posted a message related to airport safety on their official Facebook page. The post which included a photo went out at 9.15am on Wednesday morning after most parts of Britain was hit with severe snow storm. The message was intended to demonstrate the efficiency of London Luton Airport in clearing the snow on its runways. However, the Facebook message didn’t make anyone laugh because the photo that was used came from a 2005 aviation accident in which the aircraft slid off the runway and killed a 6-year-old boy on board.
Not so funny, indeed.
Whatever reasons have caused such incidents – lack of sensitivity and attention to details, bad communication skills, or in some cases external factors that are beyond control (eg system hacked) – one common consequence is public responded fast the incident goes viral in no time. So how you handle this?
Based on my observations from brands that have handled social media crisis appropriately, these are some of the steps that can be taken:
1.Localize the crisis
First step is localize the crisis. If it happened on a particular social media platform, eg Twitter, response and handle it via tweets. If it spreads to other channels, then reach out to your Facebook, Google+, Instagram or other.
Digital footprint is not easily removed and thus deletion of troubled and nasty posts is a futile attempt. Unless you have strong evident to indicate the social account was hacked, do not pass the blame to other parties.
3.Apologized to customers openly and sincerely
An apology is often not enough when loyal followers or customers are in concerned. If apologies could not pacify them, accommodate their short-term needs to vent frustration and post their comments on social media.
4.Follow up with a press release
An official announcement is needed when more facts are gathered, and it also allows the provision of contact details of key company representatives, such as the CEO, Company’s Spokesperson, Legal or Public Relation personnel. State only key facts and avoid any defensive statements.
5.Anticipate subsequent waves of crisis
Monitor the consumer and public voice in the social media related to the crisis closely. With an effective monitoring tool, brands can be alerted of a potential crisis that is coming their way. Download ebook: Crisis Communications Planning in the Social Media Age to get yourself more prepared.
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Author: Afif Maulana is the Audience Development Executive of PR Newswire based in Indonesia.