Let’s say you consider yourself a social media savvy organization. You have a Facebook page and Twitter feed that you update regularly, you post a few videos on YouTube each month, and you even have an active blog that you post on a few times per week. Ever since you started with this whole social media thing you have noticed your sales are on the rise, you have an active community of fans and followers, and you site traffic has increased steadily over the past year.
Everything is going great, until one of your followers posts on your Facebook wall that one of your employees is a racist. All of a sudden the post has 10 comments, then 15, then 20. Other posts start to appear on your Facebook wall saying the same thing. Can you imagine? What would you do?
For the Mayo Clinic recently, they didn’t have to imagine, it happened to them. One of their employees Dr. Aivars Slucis, was embroiled in an email controversy over comments he made regarding Russians and Latvians, and that controversy quickly spilled onto the Mayo Clinic Facebook wall.
The Mayo Clinic example shows the double-edged sword that is expanding your brand online through social media. Tools like Facebook provide immediate access to your customers and fans, but they also have that immediate access to you, and things can turn ugly quickly online if a controversy erupts.
Your first instinct might simply be to ignore the problem – maybe it’s just a few bad eggs right? That would be a mistake, and you would miss an opportunity to build your brand. By responding to the controversy openly, honestly, and professionally you have a chance to improve your brand perception in the face of a crisis, and stop the firestorm before it engulfs all of your social media and brand.
Making sure you have a plan in place if and when a social media disaster strikes is crucial. Here are a few tips when dealing with these disasters:
- Address the problem immediately
- Do not remove hostile comments, that will only provoke the online community further
- Respond honestly and with as much information as can be shared publically
- Go offline: give the individual(s) a chance to speak with someone personally over the phone to help get them off the public space
- If appropriate, issue a press release with an official and direct response, and post a link to the release on your website and social media sites
Thinking in advance about these potential disasters will help you address them quickly if they do pop up. Although you never hope for these controversies to erupt, dealing with quickly and openly will let your customers know they can count on you, in good times and bad.