In 2014 Professor Kane attended a session at the South by Southwest conference entitled “Tomorrow is Another Day: Surviving a Social Media Crisis.” He said it was one of the most valuable sessions he listened to and luckily this week group A got to read some of the highlights.
- Do not try to capitalize on catastrophic events.
When something is trending on twitter it can be very tempting for a company to jump into the conversation. However, as we learned last Monday from Lindsay Sutton and Melanie Nayer from Digitas companies should only get involved in the conversation if it is relevant to their brand.
An example of a company that didn’t learn this lesson soon enough was American Apparel who celebrated July Fourth by posting a photo of the Challenger explosion with the hashtags #clouds #smoke on their Tumblr page. They later apologized and stated that their “international social media employees” were born after the incident and therefore did not recognize the photograph and mistook it for fireworks.
- Plan Ahead for Social Media Fiascos.
Companies create plans for fire, earthquakes, and natural disasters, so they should develop a plan for social media emergencies. While companies may not be able to predict what video is going to go viral or getting their twitter hacked, they can imagine everyday situations and plan for them. For example, on giving Tuesday Boston College planned to ask donors for money that would go towards scholarships. While they hoped that the campaign would receive a positive response they drafted social media replies in case people were upset that BC was asking them for donations.
Professor Kane says that planning for a crisis requires that companies identify a key decision maker who is able to act during a crisis. The company should have that individual’s mobile and home numbers so they can be reached at any time of the day. When it comes to social media it is crucial that companies respond in a timely manner, 12 hours later may be 12 hours too late.
- Train Employees to Use Social Media in the Context of Your Business.
Managers cannot assume that their employees know how to properly use social media or that they will use social media appropriately. Your employees are your brand ambassadors and companies need to ensure that what employees are saying is consistent with their company’s culture. For example, an employee at KitchenAid mistakenly tweeted on the company’s twitter account that Obama’s grandmother died right before he became president because she knew how bad his first term would be. The employee was fired, but it would have been easier to avoid this disaster by properly training the employee as opposed to responding to the PR nightmare.
- Recognize that the World is Eagerly Waiting For You to Make a Mistake.
Think about Justine Sacco. She only had170 followers and still had her life destroyed by what she posted on social media. If one person with so few followers can have their slip up discussed so publically it’s much easier for consumers to see when a company makes a mistake. The SXSW panelists agreed that companies with engaging social media presences are more likely to be forgiven when they make a mistake.
An example of a company that made a string of social media mistakes is Delta. During the 2014 World Cup championship match they congratulated Ghana on their win by tweeting a photograph of a giraffe. However, users quickly pointed out that there are no giraffes in Ghana. Delta tried to quickly bounce back from the mistake, but made it worse when they referred to their “precious” tweet as opposed to their “previous” tweet. While this wasn’t a huge fiasco it does demonstrate that there is always someone out there hoping to find a flaw in what companies are posting.
- Remember that Fiascos can also Present Opportunities.
By effectively handling a social media crisis companies can help their brand. For example, when an employee accidentally tweeted about getting drunk on the Red Cross social media account the Red Cross responded within an hour and were able to recover from the incident without it blowing up.