We've all seen examples of social media eruptions burying companies in wave after wave of bad news. Amazingly, major corporations still struggle as often as not in their management of crises online. Sometimes, the corporations themselves make things worse.
In today's social media-crazed world, a clear understanding and diligent implementation of damage control principles will make or break a company in its reaction to such a crisis. Having handled numerous crises for a few dozen companies over the years, I know firsthand how much heavy lifting is involved with the successful suppression of stories, let alone turning bad news into opportunities for favorable outcomes. The rise of social media has changed that calculus though, and has made what used to be regarded as successful crisis management seem almost archaic. So, I asked Orli LeWinter, 360i's director of social marketing strategy, for recommendations. (360i is a full-service agency that works with many prominent brands and is arguably the largest social media-focused firm in the U.S.) Interestingly, her six point breakdown rings true for old-school PR crisis management, though with more directed tactics.
Don't shoot from the hip. Reacting to outcry before getting a full, balanced picture of consumer sentiment may result in an even further loss of control of the message. So do some active listening before putting out a response. Just make sure you do it quickly, since silence can often be just as bad as a misguided response.
Don't deny the facts. If your product has flaws or your CEO had an extra-marital affair, own up to the issue instead of pushing it under the rug or, even worse, hiding or deleting consumer comments about it in your social media channels.
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I think transparency is key to handling a social media crisis. Let people know what is going on and how you actually handling the situation. The more upfront you are the less it looks like you're trying to pull a fast one on your audience.
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1 Marketing jargon translated for normal people
2 The most meaningless (and hilarious) job titles on LinkedIn
3 6 top social media management tools
4 6 steps for getting your brand into their heads
5 The best social media campaigns of 2013