Storm Damage: How to Cope With Social Media Flare Ups

3 Tips for Social Media Issues

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, thousands of people living along the path of her fury are assessing the damage the storm caused and determining how to get their lives back to normal. Once your firm, brands, products and/or senior executives have been caught in the eye of a social media storm, you need to take similar action. 

Of course, the best remedy is to be prepared and engaged in the social media ecosystem to avoid or mitigate any potential social media flare up. For many firms, this may not be possible. Further, since customer and/or public discontent can erupt at any time even when you’ve done your best to take care of your customers and the public, it’s important to consider what to do before it’s necessary. The best place to start is with your brand monitoring. While effectively listening to the conversation may not be sufficient to keep your organization out of trouble, it can help you get back on track quickly.

Once you’ve got a social media storm on your hands, it’s important to be ready to respond. Here are three steps to take decisively as soon as possible.

  1. Acknowledge the problem. The more that you try to make light of the issue and think that you can cover it up, the worse you’ll look because customers and the public may view your organization as out of touch with reality. Step up and admit there’s an issue. To the extent possible, be transparent about what your firm is doing to fix the situation. Don’t over promise your ability to deliver.  Of course there will be times when you can’t do much. For example, Jet Blue was relatively quiet due to a variety of legal and regulatory issues when one of their flight attendants decided to use the rear exit chute to leave a plane.
  2. Apologize for your actions (where appropriate). Sorry is a small word that goes a long way to making people feel better. If your organization is at fault, admit it. Understand that being responsible requires a true apology because, in today’s social media savvy environment, a non-apology apology won’t cut it. The public knows the difference. That said, you must listen and empathize with your customers and the public. It’s important to see events from their perspective so take off your rose colored corporate glasses.
  3. Take steps to fix the problem. Problems are inevitable. The issue for customers is what are you doing to make it better and how are you managing expectations. People want to know what you’re doing to take care of the issue and, where appropriate, how the issue will be fixed going forward. In the case of Hurricane Irene, it was natural event where officials were proactive to mitigate potential issues. 

Once the social media storm has passed, take time to assess how your organization responded and how you can be better prepared going forward.

Do you have any suggestions regarding how to handle the damage from a social media flare up?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Photo credit: D. Fletcher via Flickr
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