Social media platforms are fantastic tools for brands to market their products and services. It is generally free for everyone to use, and there are various techniques that even newcomers can use to grow their customer reach and establish themselves as household names.
However, social media is a two-edge sword. Use it well, and it can give you fame and fortune. But it can also be a source of problems. Several personalities and brands have been in hot water over the years for mismanaging their social media platforms.
A company’s social media presence is an extension of its brand, so it deserves to be treated with all the same seriousness as any other marketing initiative. Here are five ways brands can prevent a social media crisis:
Prepare for the worst
There are a million and one ways a social media crisis can materialize. Today’s consumers have a big megaphone, and they don’t hesitate to use it when they’re unhappy.
So what will you do if—or when—it happens?
It’s important for brands to have an emergency plan in place so everyone knows how to respond if a crisis breaks out. It’s also important to know the right people to contact—and when and how to contact them.
Don’t let the CEO go on Facebook or Twitter to respond to the problem online. Unless they’re trained in PR, there’s no good reason why they should be handling the brand’s social media, especially during the crisis. They could only make the problem worse by giving the wrong response or, worse, starting a fight with a random internet user. Let your social media managers or PR department take care of it.
Respond quickly and effectively
After receiving customer concerns, putting out social media fires, and documenting everything for future reference, the last thing you want to do is have a slow response time.
Unfortunately, many brands are known to either fail or delay in their responses. The best way to avoid that stigma is to prepare for responses ahead of time. Train your staff on all the dos and don’ts of crisis responses, and then ask them to run through a few role-playing scenarios. This way, they’ll be more prepared to respond if the worst ever happens.
It’s tempting to try to keep things under wraps while you figure out what to do. But it’s always better to let the public know what’s going on from the start.
Transparency goes a long way towards averting a social media crisis. It shows potential customers that you’re truly sorry about whatever had happened and that they can trust your company again in the future.
Be transparent about your mistake, apologize for it, and explain what you’ll do to fix things moving forward. Then stick with the plan.
Most customers will give a brand another chance if they know they can continue coming back without worrying about getting burned again.
It sounds simple enough, but many brands have a difficult time apologizing for anything. That’s not an option during a crisis.
Make sure everyone knows to never, ever say “I’m sorry if…” Ever. It does nothing except show that you’re not really sorry about what happened. Instead, just take responsibility and move on from there.
The other thing to avoid is trying to make things seem better than they are. If the problem was caused by an employee, someone should be fired. If it wasn’t, then say you’re grateful to have sparked a conversation that could make your company better in the future.
Be careful who you hire
Tools like Twitter and Facebook can get any user into trouble if they’re not careful. It’s the same with employees who use social media on their own time.
When hiring people, make sure they understand your company culture and how you want them to represent themselves online. If you find that they’re out of line, then set some guidelines for what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t.
It’s also better to transfer the reigns of your social media activity to trained professionals. There are services that offer social media marketing packages that will allow the brand to flourish online and gain new customers while preventing PR disasters.
Using social media as a marketing tool seems easy, but it’s time-consuming and hard work. There’s a lot that goes into it. It takes time and effort to properly represent the company online, especially when crisis situations come up.
Use these five tips to avoid a social media crisis for your brand, and never again worry about what might happen if something does go wrong.