Are You Prepared for a Social Media Crisis?
Whatever your level of involvement is for your brand on social media, you don’t want to be clueless and unprepared when an online disaster happens. Take the two most recent online brand disasters in the news: Southwest Airlines and Progressive Insurance. Both disasters were damaging to the companies' reputations in different ways and could have been handled differently.
When someone takes to any given social media platform to express anger or disagreement with your brand, you have to first be there to listen and second be prepared to respond. Here are some guidelines to follow.
What are some of the most common complaints in your industry? What are some worst-case scenarios? Brainstorm with your team and make a list.
Craft a plan
Take that list and come up with guidelines for how you would respond to each one. You should also create a general plan for what happens above and beyond common complaints–in disaster situations. For example (using Southwest Airlines again), in the case of a huge computer malfunction or glitch like overcharging hundreds of accounts, you should have a plan for that. Here are some questions to ask when creating your plan:]
- How do we respond to each incident?
- What if something becomes worse than what we planned for?
- Whom do we contact if we need more information?
- In what situations do we involve the PR department? The CEO? Our lawyers?
- Who is responsible for responding?
- When should we delete comments?
Create a chain of command
You should write down who is in charge of monitoring, who is in charge of responding, and who needs to be involved when a situation has elevated above a common complaint.
Respond in a timely manner
When people don’t think you are listening, they assume you don’t care. Don’t leave people hanging and don’t ignore their feedback. Here are some tips for responding:
- Use the person's name
- Offer to make it right
- Take the conversation offline
Don’t be a canned response
In the situation with Progressive, the biggest downfall was responding to every angry tweet with the same, canned PR response. You have to be genuine and craft something different for each person you are responding to. People want to know that you care about their concerns and are trying to rectify the situation.
Take the conversation offline
If rectifying the situation involves more than just one response or apology, then part of your response policy should always be to ask for the person’s contact information or offer up yours. This way, your other fans and followers can see that you are addressing the situation, but don’t see the dirty details of the conversation.
Don’t just delete
Deleting the comment will do one of two things: 1) send a message that you are trying to cover up a mistake, or 2) anger the commenter into taking further action against you. Negative feedback is a necessary evil–it helps to show you where you need to improve or shine a light on something you’re doing wrong. Plus, when you go above and beyond to rectify a situation, you are potentially creating a loyal fan.
Here’s the bottom line: we don’t live in a perfect world. At some point, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to upset someone. So embrace the opportunity to provide great customer service by responding–genuinely–to negative feedback.