Understanding a social media crisis

When things go wrong on social media, they go wrong in a big way. Community Manager Jonathon Waples explains why brands need to be prepared for a crisis

When things go wrong on social media, they go wrong in a big way. Community Manager Jonathon Waples explains why brands need to be prepared for a crisis

Coping with crisis: When social media goes bad

When things go wrong on social media, they tend to go wrong in a big way. That’s why it’s always important to make sure your Community Management and social process is prepared for a crisis when talking on behalf of big brands.

Customers tend to catch onto things very quickly. When building brands on social media it’s important to make sure our content and tone of voice is always on point 24/7. When it’s not, everyone remembers it.

As consumers we can all name some of the most memorable social media fails that brands have made in the past. Not only is it a recipe for a PR disaster but it also puts organisations in a bad light, damaging their social media capability and possibly the brand itself.

Take US Airways as an example. Remember that one? Service-focused brands that are really big tend to get a lot of customer complaints. So when an angry customer reached out to US airways with a complaint including a pornographic image, the community management employee, in an attempt to reply too quickly, sent out a direct reply to the tweet that also featured the pornographic image. This resulted in all of US Airways followers seeing this image in their news feeds. Literally the opposite of the intended action. And since nothing is ever deleted forever on the internet, the prompt removal of the image wasn’t enough to make up for this social media failure.

Accounts online are people too

From personal experience managing social channels, this is such an easy mistake make, and can have drastic consequences. When working in social for big brands it’s important to constantly remind yourself that on every social channel there are actual people behind those likes, followers, and comments. Thus when you’re replying, tweeting, commenting you are engaging with people, not numbers.

We all tend to get lost in the anonymity of social media. 100,000 followers is a big number and a big audience; even more of a bigger potential crisis when you’re too quick on that reply button. So it’s important to make sure you remember who you’re aiming for 24/7 when working in social. Engage with your audience. Not at them. Check your facts and take your time.

Know the trigger warnings for potential crisis moments; think how you would feel as the customer on the other end of that tweet or post. Equally, when things go wrong, be reactive. Know how to lock down a brand crisis or a potentially damaging situation before it gets out of control. Have processes in place to ensure you can calm a crisis situation quickly for the brand you’re working with.

The customer is always right

It’s the oldest saying in the book, but it’s true. Whether you’re representing US Airways, a local florist or a international FMCG brand, customer service via social media is the way the world works. Meaning brands need to move forward with the customer, by developing methodical ways of responding and working to ensure you uphold the brand’s value and tone of voice.

Finally (it goes without saying) take your time. An itchy mouse finger is your worst enemy! I’ve learnt this from many fast-click experiences. Read through every tweet before you send it. The simplest of things sometimes make the biggest of differences…

This article first appeared on Jonathon Waples’ LinkedIn, and is reproduced here with permission.

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