Did you ever wonder why so many companies seem to walk right into social media nightmares?
It turns out many executives fail to consider social media reputation when making business decisions. In fact, according to a survey conducted late last year, more than one-third of executives (36 percent) say the CEO of their company either does not care, or cares little, about the company's reputation in social media.
These stats are astounding. Reputations matter. In addition, a seemingly small issue can quickly escalate into a full-blown crisis that threatens not only the reputation of your company, but its very existence.
Yet it is relatively easy for organizations to avoid a high profile disaster with just a bit of common sense and preparation. Many principles typically taught in media training are good grounding for what to do if your company finds itself embroiled in a serious online issue.
Here are seven media training principles to help social media marketers avoid problems online.
#1 Be prepared
In today's online, 24/7 business world we should all take a motto from the Boy Scouts and "be prepared." Understand the issues or events your organization is likely to face. Prepare position statements and messages on each one. Approve responses in advance and train employees to be effective.
Social media presents unique challenges for crisis preparedness. Social media policies for community managers handling Facebook and Twitter accounts should specify the type of issue they are empowered to handle-and when they need input from a supervisor.
Front-line staff also need proper training. For example, a little education goes a long way in preventing an employee from sending a potentially damaging personal tweet from your corporate account like these examples from the American Red Cross and KitchenAid.
Image source: http://www.pcworld.com
Image source: http://www.buzzfeed.com
#2 Track company and brand mentions
If you have ongoing issues, track them in mainstream, as well as social media. If you are a small company and do not have a big budget, track company and brand mentions with a tool like Hootsuite. If you suddenly get a flood of mentions about an issue, investigate and then decide on the best response.
#3 Breathe deep, then respond quickly
When an unanticipated issue does surface, give yourself a bit of breathing room to think through your response. However, do not let the issue fester. Respond as quickly as possible. And stick to the media where the issue appeared in order to contain it as much as possible. If a customer reports a problem with your service on Facebook, respond to them on Facebook.
#4 Take the conversation offline
Wherever possible, take your response offline. If a customer is complaining on Twitter, ask for their email or phone number so you can contact them directly. There is no need for your entire community (and potentially the entire world) to listen in on your conversation.
#5 Avoid anger and arrogance
Never, ever lose your cool in social media (or mainstream media). It is unprofessional plus it creates a very poor company image.
Consider this tirade from Amy's Baking Company Bakery Boutique and Bistro (if you have forgotten about Amy and Sami, refresh your memory about their incredible social media meltdown).
Image source: http://www.bizjournals.com
#6 Tell the truth
If you do not know the answer to a question, do not just make something up. Always tell the truth. If you do not know, say so and refer the issue to someone who does know the answer.
It is rare, but some companies blatantly lie about difficult situations. Amy's Baking Company Bakery Boutique and Bistro was one of the most spectacular social media fails ever-and a good example of what not to do.
In this Facebook thread, they claim their social media accounts were hacked as a way of explaining the bad behavior noted above.
#7 Empathy is good
If your company, or the area where you do business, is facing an event where someone lost his or her life, express empathy. If making a public statement, either on- or off-line, the first words out of your mouth should be, "We are saddened by the events we witnessed today and our thoughts are with the families affected by this terrible tragedy."
It is simple, yet so many organizations neglect to put a human face to their social media interactions.
Image source: http://mashable.com
There is no need to be one of those CEOs who simply does not care about their social media reputation. Make wise decisions and prepare properly for small issues that can escalate into something much more serious.