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How to deal with a social media crisis and prevent a catastrophe

By on May 23, 2011


Here I leave you with my last article in CampaignAsia about how we can use social media to prevent a crisis and convert it into positive online buzz. Enjoy it! This article with more than 120RT is the article most read!

When launching a marketing campaign we are always looking to achieve the tipping point, the moment on the graph when the line starts to shoot straight upwards, But what happens if something goes wrong and a potential crisis is looming?

How to deal with a social media crisis

Users now have the power to share, the power to learn the truth and the tools and media to be heard.

A great example of a brand that was tested by the power of social media is Kryptonite. A user hacked its new ’Evolution 200’ bike lock with a simple Bic pen and uploaded a video on YouTube. There are plenty of examples from brands literally not listening to their customer complaints, including United Breaks Guitars (more than 10 million views on YouTube), to those losing reputation because of their employee’s bad behaviour (Domino’s Pizza and the two rogue employees) or a negative rumor (Actimel in Argentina).

A crisis can start due to many reasons, even seemingly innocuous ones like launching online contests or re-branding logos (Gap’s logo crisis).

Sometimes a crisis can just affect awareness and image, but can also affect sales. A new national study conducted by HCD Research, found 65 per cent of respondents who would previously visit or order Domino’s Pizza, were less likely to do so after viewing the incriminating video.

What can we learn from these social media crises?

– Monitor your brand constantly. Some time ago, companies didn’t care about what customers said about their brands because the internet’s functionality was very limited, and user generated content was small, and not terribly relevant. Today, the web is social and even if a website doesn’t allow interaction, Google makes it happen through tools like Sidewiki. Prevention is the best solution to manage brand crisis.

– Listen first and then act. Categorise and understand the crisis. Nothing can go live without first listening to the conversations taking place. Try to find the most important crisis conversation axes; identify the original talking point and the most influential sources discussing the brand – and, most importantly, how they are connected to each other. Don’t rush into anything. Try to analyse the crisis by putting it on an evolution graph to determine the phase you are faced with, and the type of crisis that is affecting you by imagining possible scenarios and define the best action plan.

– Speak up. United Airline’s response after 50,000 views on YouTube was “We’re working to make what happened right“. In digital space your response time is only 24 hours.

– Use the same media and format where crisis started to respond. The video that destroyed Domino’s Pizza reputation was posted on YouTube so Patrick Doyle, the company’s president, used this same channel to publish his apology.

– Let someone relevant or important respond. It’s time for CEOs and presidents. The most important role within the company, at that time, is the person who keeps an open, consistent flow of communication so the brand shows its engagement.

– Engage industry influencers. Online users trust them more than official media, and Google has pushed their value up on search results. Save time and focus your efforts; identify influencers and show them how you want to solve the problem. It is not only about apologising, but explaining what the company is doing in order to save the crisis. As Malcolm Gladwell said, “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”

– Focus the conversation in a unique point. A crisis can be more dangerous and harder to manage when it’s spread around the whole web. If you, as a marketing manager, really want to solve the situation – create an open and transparent website with full functionalities and information resources. Show to the global community how engaged you really are.

– Develop the brand social media presence and influence. Social media is more than being present, you need to interact and gain influence and share of voice. If your brand is already doing right and working hard on these channels, users will be more likely to support and help you (fans and online ambassadors), even if social media works under ‘the Goliath effect‘ dynamics. If you are not ready by the time you will try to understand social media and create social profiles, your brand will get smashed. You should take a look at the evolution of the Domino’s Pizza video.

* 562,627 views (8am)
* 636,000 views (11:15am)
* 690,000 views (1pm)
* 728,816 views (3pm)
* 745,679 views (5pm)
* 930,390 views (9:30pm)

– Trust the SEO range of possibilities but don’t use it in an illicit way. Have you ever heard of reputational SEO? Basically, we have to work on pushing up positive conversations and pushing down negative comments on search engines. The best way to do this is through long term commitment to regular posting of good, linked content to the web. Trying to game the system through ‘black hat’ SEO tricks is a good way to get blacklisted by Google. Remember, for example, the Vichy fake blog case (the division of French cosmetics giant L’Oreal)?

Think crisis as opportunity. The best moment during a crisis is to really show your fans and the entire world how engaged your brand is. Embrace the ‘moment of truth’. Don’t just think in terms of solving the crisis, but also in converting the PR crisis into positive online buzz.

via- Campaign Asia

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