In a world before social media, when a brand messed-up not many people noticed, let alone realized it had happened. Sure, office gossip spread. And maybe every now and then a big screw-up (new Coke, anyone?) got a write-up and generated national buzz. But in today’s world, even a minor change or error can generate major criticism – thanks to social media. Brands have gone back on decisions just because of negative fan reactions. They have had to scramble to manage incoming tweets, comments, and DMs. Sometimes change is necessary, but steps can be taken to prepare for, avoid, and/or manage responses to that change as they come in.
Have a crisis management plan in place: Prior to a major announcement, be prepared for every response possible, even if you think it’s practically impossible. Decide what kind of comments you’ll address, and which you’ll simply ignore – and stick by that decision. Always continue to monitor negative comments that have been ignored in case they escalate. Be prepared to monitor for comments non-stop – and not just by scrolling through a Twitter feed. This is a time when investment in a monitoring tool or agency with knowledge of that tool (and manpower to monitor) makes sense.
Use social media responses to your advantage, if possible: After Chick-fil-A replaced its signature BBQ sauce with a new Smokehouse BBQ Sauce back in July, fans were outraged. #BringBackTheBBQ became a trending hashtag on Twitter and Facebook comments flooded the brand’s page, demanding the return of the original sauce. After several months of unrest, Chick-fil-A admitted they had made a mistake, and brought back the original sauce. But they took the apology one step farther, with a video showing Chick-fil-A employees reading aloud mean tweets directed at the brand. The video received a positive response because it was funny and showed that Chick-fil-A didn’t take itself too seriously (after all, it is just BBQ sauce).
Take steps to catch a crisis before it escalates: Sometimes, social media “disasters” can occur out of the blue. These are unrelated to major brand announcements; rather, as reactions to customer complaint or negative experiences that go viral. management taking place multiple times per day is essential, and Google Alerts should be set up with daily delivery. If a brand does not have the manpower or expertise to commit to this internally, they should consider finding outside help. There is no time to bring someone in later after a major issue suddenly reveals itself. In the world of social media, acting fast is key.
Know when to turn off automated and/or promotional posts: Few things are more cringe-worthy than a brand tweeting “50% off – buy today!” amid a crisis, so abstain from promotional content until the waters settle. If you utilize automated tweets, be sure they are fool-proof. I experienced a personal example myself just recently, when I tweeted at Domino’s about a pizza never showing up and got this response:
No, Domino’s. I wasn’t.
Social media is a bit of a catch-22…Your brand needs to have a social presence, and some have seen social media grow brand awareness and sales by unbelievable amounts. But social media also makes it easier than ever for negative feedback to be seen by up to millions of people. So just remember: when planning a social media strategy, you should be prepared for good AND bad.