• First and foremost, no one is an expert. As the demand for quality social expertise is growing, realize that no one has all the answers and the landscape is constantly changing. However, the right person will have the right “skills.”
• Secondly, you are no longer in “control” and there are new rules of engagement. According to Jeremiah Owyang, “The power belongs to the community.”
• Thirdly, you must have a strategy, and not just a policy. According to Jay Baer, consider How will you be human? A basic crisis communications plan that integrates with social media is also key. The following are some steps to consider before your organization is faced with a social media crisis.
Review how your organization handles customer problems without the impact of social media. How are communications spread internally now? Do you regularly meet with the heads of all major departments on issues of customer service, social responsibility, etc. How can internal communications be improved? What is the process for resolving problems? What are your resources? Who is in charge? If you don’t have a good process in place, your shortcomings will only be exacerbated with social media.
Add social media to the mix, and your process is now public. Accept that with the lack of control comes a mandate for transparency. What are the skeletons in your closet? They will come out. Be ready to address them.
Would you put your social media person in charge of any other crisis communications? Another mistake is that many organizations hire a junior, technologically savvy, staffer who may not be able to manage this powerful media channel. Is this person a qualified spokesperson for the organization? What type of crisis communications training do they have? Do they have a high EQ? Emotional intelligence is a prerequisite for social intelligence. Do they have life experience? Do they understand social interaction in a business setting? Do they have empathy? Do they recognize when they should ask for help? Are they able to navigate a clear path to real-time resources and content? These are “skills” that will make a difference when an unexpected situation arises despite the best-laid plans.
You can no longer rely on scripted responses and press releases. Although outlining your position on issues is a great part of training and planning for a crisis, today’s 21st century consumer demands a real response from a real person in a genuine way. Anything less will be seen as not being transparent. It should be welcome for a more senior management person to join in and address an issue, and they need to identify themselves and their role in being able to resolve the problem.
Social media management is a team effort. Dedicate adequate resources and time to the process or get out of the sandbox. Don’t rush to get on all the platforms without a plan. According to Carve Consulting, “Brands have to have an escalation policy in place – who gets involved if a death threat is posted to the CEO? Or something like this kicks off? All of these things need to be in place now, not after the horse has bolted. The best way is having a social media working group with heads of sales / HR / CRM / PR / comms etc. that meet for an hour a month in order to plan for this type of eventuality.”
Invest in relationships with your influencers. Do you really know your customers? Are you engaging the influencers? Where do they fall on the scale of Friend or Foe?
1. Raving Fan
4. Unhappy Customer
Monitor your brand. Do you understand sentiment analysis tools? Do you know how to really listen? Do you know how to engage based on sentiment? Do you have a regular dialogue? In the time of a crisis, having a network of raving fans to engage is critical. Most raving fans will come out to support you on their own, but look to move more fans up the scale by building trust through social media.
Do not ignore negative sentiment. Nip it in the bud. An honest response that you are addressing the situation can diffuse a situation until you can figure out a solution. Good customer service principles applied to digital media include:
1. Acknowledging the messenger’s concern.
2. Thanking the messenger for bringing the issue to your attention.
3. Asking the messenger to take the conversation offline.
4. Acting. Fix the situation, find a solution.
5. Responding back to the community on how you have dealt with the problem, especially if the situation affects more than one person.
Where your customers are on the Friend to Foe scale will influence your strategy. Some people are just Foes, and will demand special handling. Here, the team effort and knowing your limitations are paramount. If you don’t have a real-time solution, ask for time and work on it. Never get in a fight or get emotional with a detractor. Stick to the facts.
Admit what you don’t know. Ask the community for help. Sanofi-Aventis did a great job asking the #hcsmeu community for recommendations during the March 19th chat. To hear “What Has Sanofi-Aventis Learned from Its Facebook Experience?” join John Mack, @pharmaguy, who will conduct a live streaming interview with Dennis Urbaniak, VP U.S. Diabetes and former VP of Innovation and New Customer Channels, Sanofi-Aventis, on Tuesday, April 6th at 2:00 p.m. EST.
The end goal is “trust.” There are no shortcuts to successful social media engagement. Building trust takes time, but it is an investment that pays huge dividends.
TWO NEW TOOLS