In the past, when things broke or services failed, regular sources of information could be hard to come by, unreliable, intermittent and downright infuriating; a phone number with a recorded message on the other end, a sliver of advice, half-heard from the radio or a massive queue leading to very frustrated customers.
While this can still unfortunately be the case, a number of recent examples have demonstrated that savvy organisations can use social media channels to keep people informed, disseminating crucial information, answering panicked questions and doing their credibility a whole world of good.
Tools to manage your Social Media activity
There are a number of ways to effectively monitor or use social media. One way is to invest in a good social media management tool. There are many free tools available, the one’s I like are:
- Hootsuite. A social media dashboard. Monitor keywords and manage multiple tools such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Twitter Search. Monitor your Company, Brand and keywords.
- Google Alerts. Create free alerts for your company, brands, competitors and any other relevant keywords to be delivered to your inbox.
Social media is a very effective way to help a company manage or even avert a crisis.
Speed and agility is the key. Respond to direct questions and complaints, don’t leave them hanging for other people to comment on or engage in a conversation on their experiences, good, bad or indifferent.
Establish a crisis management / PR document that you and your team can refer to and implement when needed
- Acknowledge the crisis. At the onset of a crisis, when the questions far outnumber the answers, the best you can do is acknowledge that you are aware of the circumstances. This lets concerned customers and social media onlookers know that you are listening.
- Respond using the correct platform. To communicate about the crisis, it is important that you do it in the same venue where the crisis is voiced most. So if a crisis breaks out on Twitter, respond first on Twitter. If it breaks on Facebook, respond on Facebook. If the problem is YouTube, create a video response.
- Apologise. If you make a mistake and want the healing process to happen quickly - if you care about how you’re perceived and want to win back your supporters and fans - it all starts with two little words: “I’m sorry.”
- Create a FAQ. Create a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions document as quickly as possible that details the most prominent inquiries about the crisis and your responses. Even if you don’t have answers to every question, create the FAQ and update it in real time as more information becomes available. In the real-time era, supporters are reassured by watching your crisis management unfold minute by minute.
- Build a pressure-relief valve. Opportunities for discussion venues include your Facebook page (perhaps the discussions tab), comments on your YouTube channel, or a dedicated discussion forum.
- Show that you are Human after all. If things turn real ugly, sometimes you can’t win by engaging thoughtfully on a public venue like Twitter or Facebook or a blog. For people who are too upset to handle via public replies, attempt to engage them offline. Publicly invite them to contact you via telephone or ask them to provide their telephone number so that you can call them. This demonstrates your willingness to engage - not just to the thorn in your side, but to all viewers - and can, in some circumstances, reduce toxicity immediately.
- Inform the Team. Provide your team with information that’s at least as timely and accurate as the information being provided to the public. That sounds self-evident, but, in practice, crisis scenarios often unfold in such a way that the communication professionals are so busy updating the Facebook page and the FAQ that they overlook keeping all employees in the loop.
- Lesson Learnt. Once the crisis has abated, document the situation. Make copies of all posts to Twitter, Facebook, and your blog; all e-mails received; all YouTube videos posted - anything related to the situation, both from your team and from customers. This will be useful to help you reconstruct and learn from your response and is also a good policy from a legal perspective. Do analysis into the spikes in traffic to your website, blog, Facebook fan page, and other venues.
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