With the fallout from United Airlines PR disaster still ongoing, it is perhaps timely to think about the steps you can take to protect your business reputation on social media!
It isn’t feasible to attempt to control your entire message—in today’s highly digital environment, there’s no way you can control everything said about your company. However, don’t let that deter you from joining social media. In fact, it’s a compelling reason to get involved: you can contribute a positive voice on your company’s behalf and play an active role in handling problems. People will talk about your company regardless of whether you have a presence online—but if there’s no way for you to hear what is said, you risk much bigger reputation problems.
Manage your reputation
Instead of avoiding social media, manage your online reputation by taking proactive steps when something negative is said.
- Keep open communications. If someone is complaining publicly about your brand, company or product, respond publicly as well. It can be tempting to move the conversation straight to a private channel (or ignore it), but publicly addressing the issue will earn your company points for responsiveness and credibility. Remember that every time you answer a customer complaint, it increases customer advocacy. It give you the opportunity to take a bad situation and make it better. In addition, when you interact with negative customers, you learn things about how your business is perceived that you can then use to make your business better.
- Don’t delete negative posts or comments from your social media platforms (unless they violate the site’s policies or are extremely inappropriate). Deleting posts will only cause more backlash—address the problem head-on.
- When one or more of your customers is having an issue and voicing it online, don’t wait to respond. The sooner you can address the issue, even just with an apology and a promise that you’re working towards a resolution, the more trust you may be able to restore.
- Don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake and even backtrack if necessary. People will appreciate that much more than trying to cover a mistake or shift blame. Try not to take it personally but find a way to move forward and reach a positive outcome for all concerned.
- Don’t bring problems on yourself. The smallest joke or comment taken the wrong way can spark a firestorm of criticism. Think about everything you write (and everything you encourage your followers to share in return) to evaluate if it could be damaging to you or backfire.
- Empathise with the individual using a human tone (not just the voice of “the Organisation” you work for) and seek to resolve the situation whilst demonstrating that you care. Many businesses and individuals who take the time to respond, do so in a way that is so devoid of caring, feeling or empathy, they actually make the situation worse (think United Airlines)!
- Don’t be caught unprepared when a crisis hits. Establish a social media crisis response plan now so that you are ready to handle situations that may occur.
Your social media crisis response plan
- Monitor your online presence—there are a variety of free and paid tools and resources to ‘listen’ online.
- Create policies and plans for the possibility of a crisis, so that you can take action immediately. Have a team assembled (which may include management, marketing, communications, IT and/or legal), and make sure everyone is trained on how to respond to a social media crisis.
- When a crisis occurs, you’ll need to decide your response and execute quickly. Who do you need to share information with, internally and externally? Should your response target one audience or span all your social outlets? What is the message?
- After a crisis, evaluate your response and the entire process. Identify any weaknesses and discuss how to improve and modify your social media crisis plan as necessary.