Organizations continue to experiment and learn about new approaches to engaging customers. However, a company can suffer on social media when unflattering posts are shared within platforms. The reality is that even if the company was justified in the post or if a story is false, the only thing that matters to consumers is how the company responds.
The methods that businesses use to communicate with their customers have been changed forever with social media channels. Gone are the days where companies could respond without everyone’s eyes on them. Even with that, companies are still determined to make social media an effective marketing tool because social media marketing works, is inexpensive, and delivers word-of-mouth brand recognition.
But, what happens when social media marketing goes wrong? Jonathan Hemus, directors of Insignia, told TechNewsWorld, “The interesting thing about social media and crisis management is that it provides both threat and opportunity. Threat, because it means that in a transparent world, crises are more likely to occur – it’s much harder to hide bad news these days – and when they do arise, they spread faster and further.”
We’ll use Applebee’s as an example of when brands go wrong. Applebee’s fired a waitress who posted a no-tip receipt online. The customer, a pastor, signed her name and wrote, “I give God 10 percent. Why do you get 18? Applebee’s came under attack for complying with the pastor’s request to fire the waitress. As a result, thousands of negative social network comments went around about the brand.
The company should have announced that the waitress made a mistake and that it wouldn’t happen again. Instead, the company failed to respond correctly when the audience ridiculed the brand for its decision. The company even tried to block comments thereby creating even more negative media attention via blog posts and radio station’s online comments.
When should a company start thinking about social media in crisis communications?
Insignia’s Hemus said, “It is essential that all businesses consider social media and its impact on crisis management in advance of a crisis occurring.” The speed at which social media escalates an incident into a crisis is faster than a company can figure out how to deal with it. According to Hemus, companies need to “seize the agenda” and use the company’s own channels to communicate.
There are three levels of crisis management for social media, according to Hemus. Level one is to monitor social network communications so you know what is being said about your company. He said, “It’s a very effective early warning system.”
Level two is to set up channels ahead of time. Even if they’re not used a lot, it’s important to have enough staff to start them at a moment’s notice. Hemus said, “No use having a Twitter feed available but insufficient staff to deal with the torrent of comment that can submerge a business during a crisis.”
Level three is to fully engage with social media. It’s imperative that a company’s culture tune into the demands of social media.
You need to have a crisis communication policy in place, before going live if possible, according to Nancy Myrland of Myrland Marketing. She said, “For those companies that are already in the midst of integrating social media into their existing communication efforts, they need to sit down ASAP to discuss how they plan to react should crises arise. Whether we plan for them or not, all of our actions have the potential to create a crisis – as do all of our reactions to other crises.”
DKNY had a recent experience that could have become a crisis. A photographer wrote on his Facebook fan page that the Bangkok store window was full of his photographs, but the company did not pay for them. He said the company offered to pay him for the photographs but didn’t offer enough money. He then continued that he no longer wanted the money for himself but wanted DKNY to donate to a YMCA located in New York to help inner-city impoverished kids go to summer camp.
DKNY said that the company made a mistake and that the pictures shouldn’t have been displayed. In addition, it donated money to the YMCA. The company was able to resolve a damaging incident that had the potential to go viral within a few hours.