Fight Back with Social Media

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    When a social media based crisis hits, the strongest tool in your crisis management arsenal is…social media.

    Sounds great, but what the heck does it mean? What it means is that you go straight back to where you took the damage with your apology, amends, or solution. Facebook users formed a group to protest a new product? Your video response is going right on their page.

    In a recent blog post, the pros at Position 2 gave a solid set of tips to take this idea further:

    • Have Seasoned Social Media Experts Handle a Crisis: Having a junior intern handle your social media activities simply because ‘they get social media’ may not always be the best approach. A well assembled social media disaster management team, comprising of a community manager, a PR and a senior management representative, ensures that your company is always prepared to successfully handle an unforeseen situation. Besides managing large amount of content and conversations online, the disaster management team will know a) when to respond b) what to say c) how much to say and d) when to remain silent. Social media experts know how to handle crisis without breaking sweat; and this is vital for restoring your company’s image online.
    • Turn Crisis into Opportunity: Yes! A PR crisis can be converted into positive online buzz. The most apt example in this case involves fashion retailer Gap and how the company turned its logo debacle into a social media opportunity. Instead of playing the blame game after their own version was severely criticized across Facebook and Twitter, Gap smartly decided to offer its fans the chance to redesign its logo online. By doing this, the company a) acknowledged the problem b) made customers feel involved c) shifted the focus from the actual issue by converting it into an exciting social media campaign and d) managed to improve its reputation.
    • Talk about it: By apologizing on Facebook or tweeting that you’re sorry, you have managed to mollify disgruntled fans; what next? Believe it or not, your customers want to hear what happened. Discussing the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the situation shows that the PR representatives and social media experts are doing more than just their job. Using a personal, human voice when communicating via social media channels re-establishes trust with customers, making them believe that your company has more than just an organizational presence. Talking about an issue not only promotes trust and commitment, but also leads to a favorable brand image.

    While a lot has changed, the fact that audiences still appreciate direct and genuine conversation remains the same. Even if you have nothing more complex to say than, “we screwed up, this is the sequence of events, this is what we’ve done to prevent it,” the honest communication will help to create a valuable connection.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]