Social media is a whirlwind of Likes, blogs, tweets, emails, IMs, comments, opinions, fact and fiction. Who can keep track?! Fortunately, we took on that challenge when we planned a monitoring strategy for our business, utilizing free analytical tools to measure the status and growth of our ROI. Regardless of how well monitored a company appears, an emergency can break out 24/7 in the social media domain. A social media crisis can spread like wildfire if not caught early enough and extinguished. Bad news travels faster than good so a 911 crisis response plan is imperative. The key to retaining control is to be proactive. Ideally, your company has anticipated, planned, prepared and practiced for the worst.
Acknowledge the situation and determine who or what is impacted.
Be timely, act fast! Clean up as soon as possible. The longer the response time, the greater the probability for negative brand impacts.
Alert, prep and update your employees. They must know at least as much as the public knows. They are your brand advocates and are on the front lines.
Be transparent. Communicate with your audience about what has happened and how the company is handling the situation. Hit all social networks, especially the platform where the setback originated.
Own your mistake(s) and be sorry! Cut out the excuses, no one wants to hear them. A sincere apology may help the brand recover.
Hold onto and copy all data and communication from the situation, so there is documentation of how the situation was handled. This could also serve as a framework for future mishaps.
Evaluate the company response plan. What were the challenges? Make improvements based on lessons learned and prepare for the next inevitable crisis.
Be sure the right people are aware of the modified crisis response plan and its location. Commit to regular social media crisis drills.
When I analyze the above crisis management steps with regards to South Fork Electric, I foresee more word-of-mouth damage. He lives and works in such a small area and social media is just beginning to catch on. Hopefully any dissatisfaction could be handled on a case-by-case basis because my brother wouldn’t walk away from a disappointed customer. There is no where for him to hide, including behind a computer or smart phone screen. As a small business owner, the last thing you want to do is upset, disappoint or leave a customer hanging. He must still apply the steps of acknowledgment and communication with a disgruntled customer before the person passes on his disappoint to other potential customers. A tarnished reputation isn’t easily fixed.
Neither a social media, nor a word-of-mouth crisis has to resemble a disaster. Both situations are experiences with lessons to learn for future scenarios. Anticipate, plan, prepare and practice. “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” (Charles R. Swindoll).
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