There is only so much sand in the hourglass and if you haven’t already figured out what your social media game plan is during a company crisis, please read on immediately.
In today’s age of communications having a social media crisis engagement strategy is critical to preserving your brand. Now more than ever, the public expects an immediate response on social media when a crisis hits. Every minute that passes by without a response is a slippery slope to disaster. According to a recent study on Hubspot 72 per cent of people who complain on Twitter expect a response within an hour. Moreover, 60 per cent of respondents in the survey felt negatively about the brand if they did not receive timely responses.
Here are a few steps to consider on how best to develop a minimal defence on social media when dealing with a crisis:
1. Social Media Monitoring
There are many different software platforms out there but if you do not have a full-time person involved in this process or a person who fully understands how to monitor and what alerts to establish you are far better off to engage the services of a firm that can manage this process for you. The cost of such a monitoring service can run you anywhere from $500+ per month depending on the size of your company. Though software platforms typically cost within this range, the advantage of having an agency manage this for your company is that you don’t carry the additional costs of an employee. At that rate, it makes much more economic sense to outsource.
2. Understanding the difference between and issue and a full-blown crisis
Having a clear understanding of the issue is your first step. You should develop a cascade of responses and protocol to ensure that you don’t escalate an issue like an ice cream spill in a retail store to a crisis like a bank robbery in progress.
Make sure the Crisis Communications Team (CCT) has assigned a senior member to be responsible for any communication approvals for rapid response requirements. It is very important that you don’t delay in responding to customer enquiries even if it means providing placeholder responses noting that you’re aware of the issues and you will get back to them promptly. If you have been in these turbulent waters before you understand how quickly a poorly managed issue can soon escalate into a crisis.
3. First Responders
Know what the program is once your issue has been detected. Every great crisis management plan has protocols and messaging created in advance. Everyone should know who is on the team and what previously crafted responses are ready to go or need to be quickly modified. Your social media responders have to be empowered with baseline responses and a priority sequence on response levels and messaging. Make sure you have a consistent message that can be adapted across all social media channels.
4. Get the message up
Do not waste time pursuing the perfect detailed response. Even if you do not have all the required details, at a bare minimum, you need to inform your audience. Tell them you are aware of the situation and expect to be addressing it more formally within the hour or whatever immediate timeframe possible. This conveys your understanding of the urgency and immediacy of the situation. Also, be sure to display the highest amount of empathy possible. Being abrupt and unsympathetic will only add fuel to the fire.
Make sure your team has a standing ‘if in doubt’ response so that no enquiry goes unanswered. Furthermore, once the correct, informed responses to your issue have been created, make sure your social media manager is able to respond expeditiously, and in the event of uncertainty, that the appropriate level of senior management is available to sign off on the post. Ultimately you will need to post an official response to a situation on your website which will be used by the media, blog writers and others who will be reporting on your issue.
5. Pause your scheduled posts
Nothing can be worse than seeing a light-hearted acknowledgement of an unrelated event magically appear during the heat of a crisis. Disable your scheduled posts immediately. Your customer base needs to know that your priority focus is on the issue at hand and nothing else.
6. Create a crisis FAQ web page
Having a web page that addresses the most frequent questions around the issue gives you the ability to link to answers more efficiently. Details of the occurrence, contacts at the crisis site, lists of products impacted, geographic regions in question, etc., should all be aggregated in one place that can be easily referenced and shared throughout your social media posts.
Once the message is up, make sure you immediately engage with your audience responses. Make sure that you are consistent with your messaging and responding in a polite and caring manner. If you have positive responses, make sure and thank those supporters immediately. There will be individuals that cannot be pleased no matter what the effort and you need to understand this going in.
One tactic you should consider in your response is offering to take the conversation ‘offline’. While you may get a few people accepting this offer, at the very least, you are indicating to the broader audience at large your willingness to address heated and repeated comments directly. Remember, if you are satisfying the majority you have preserved your brand and supporting community.
8. Internal Employees
Your employees need to be made immediately alert to any social media crisis response campaign. It is critical that company employees do not randomly respond or engage in conversations on social. This protocol should be addressed in your employee handbook to protect the company/brand from rogue engagement. Make sure that all employees are aware of the situation when it breaks and to refer to the section in their handbook for references regarding proper behaviour. Also, make sure you keep your employees up to date on all developments and conclusions as they are reached.
9. Document Everything
Make sure you create a log of engagement. Tweets, status updates, blogs, comments on social media—everything needs to be saved in a central repository for future references. Make sure copies of all your emails are recorded. Also, review your campaign. Understand what worked, did not work and your social media activity as it relates to the time series of the event. Review web site traffic patterns and understand where visitors were engaged. Reviewing what happened will only make your campaign stronger the next time it happens.
10. Continue to monitor
One of the most common mistakes to crisis management is thinking it’s over and having it rear its ugly head again four days later. Keep a close eye and adjust your monitoring to key in on higher influencers. As well, make sure you are monitoring key date milestones. In other words, expect that someone will trot out “it was one year ago today…” these are common occurrences, and you need to be prepared.
These are but a few ideas that should help you better prepare. Until your next crisis…
Since its adoption by brands and business, social media has evolved beyond a broadcast platform to a tool that enables you to gather insights about your customers, industry, products and competitors. With the right tools, a social listening strategy can help you earn valuable business intelligence by tracking, analyzing and responding to targeted conversations and keywords.
If you think of the information you can gain from market research, you can implement the same approach to learn from people on social who are already engaging with your brand and your industry. If you approach social media as a giant focus group, ask yourself as a brand, “what problems are you trying to solve, and what data do you need to solve it?”
We can define social listening as the act of monitoring social media platforms for conversation around your brand, clients, competitors, keywords and any other ideas or themes that are relevant to your business. The next step is where we find the real value of social listening: analyzing the information for actionable insights. Those actions can enable you to engage customers, determine consumer behaviour models or shift your overall product or brand positioning strategy.
Social listening is different from social media monitoring by looking beyond social metrics like engagement rate, mentions and followers to learning what the feelings are behind the posts—how people actually feel about you, your competitors and the industry overall.
Make it part of your business strategy
Social media listening should automatically be part of your business strategy—even if you’re already engaging in market research studies, social listening will provide you with scores of actionable data from real people who are actively discussing the subjects you’re monitoring. Last month, Mansfield attended a seminar in Toronto from NetBase, a leading social listening platform. Guest speaker Ravi Imam from 113 Industries spoke about “finding David in your data.” Michelangelo’s David was sculpted from a single block of discarded marble, and just as Michelangelo saw something beautiful in an unwanted piece of marble, there could be a masterpiece waiting in your data—it’s just a question of listening to what it’s telling you and taking action.
On their blog, Hootsuite has a useful list of what to track when starting your social listening monitors:
Because your social listening monitors will pick up what people are you saying about you and your competitors, you’ll be able to determine how your brand fits within the industry, relative to customer perspectives. You’ll see the types of content your audiences are most engaged with and higher level insights around customer behaviour.
With a properly implemented social listening strategy, you will gain a deeper understanding of your brand and industry with insights on how to improve in all areas of your business. Sales teams will learn more about how customers really feel about products and services, marketing personnel will see what content is most valuable to audiences and R&D teams will have direct access to real-time customer perspectives on your products those of your competitors.
With the right tools and keywords, you’ll have the infrastructure in place to mold a David of your own. Read through Mansfield’s entire digital offering here and let us know when you’re ready to put social listening to work for your band.
Should your company’s C-Suite executives be using social media? Even if they should be, chances are they’re not—according to research published in 2016 from CEO.com and Domo, 60 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence whatsoever.
Whether or not the company brass should be publicly active on social networks depends largely on who they are as a person and how they want to be perceived within the company and the industry. Do they want to appear more relatable and connect more genuinely with employees and colleagues? Conversely, executives may harm the brand if their social media is done poorly. Just look at United Airline’s Oscar Munoz’ response to the controversy around their forced removal of a passenger earlier this year.
To give you an idea of the pros and the cons, we broke down the simple reasons for and against your company’s leaders engaging on social media.
Reasons for getting your company leaders on social:
• Shaping brand views: any executives on social media will serve as an extension of the company and their social media posts coming from the top will support the larger marketing activities. This can help the brand appear more accessible to a larger audience.
• Being approachable to employees: any efforts to be more accessible to outside audiences are applicable within the company itself. When employees are engaged on social media with their leaders they’re likely more satisfied in their job which will lead to less turnover.
• Improving relationships with customers and stakeholders: active execs help show the public and future customers how much the organization values customer experience. CEOs engaging with real people on social media can enhance brand opinions and loyalty.
• Talent recruitment: being adept on social emphasizes a CEO’s know-how with technology. Organizations searching for recruits who are invested in tech-friendly companies may value a CEO who keeps a strong social media presence.
• Keeping abreast of company or industry issues: social media allows CEOs to proactively monitor and participate in the relevant discussions that arise in regards to their company or industry. This can help company leadership react quickly to key industry developments.
On the other side, basic arguments against CEOs embracing social include:
• It may be too time consuming: sometimes time is a CEO’s most valuable commodity and forcing social media on them can take their attention away from more relevant pieces of business.
• It could be inauthentic: it’s not uncommon for executives to let their PR or communications teams run their accounts. While they’re most likely approving the posts, the words may not feel genuine which largely defeats the purpose of a personal social media account.
• The risk factor: if they are running their own accounts, giving a CEO free rein of their can be risky if they’re known for contentious or provocative commentary.
• It could harm internal productivity: if company leadership is seen as proactively social it may encourage employees to spend more time than necessary socializing online leading to decreased productivity.
However, if your company execs see the value in social media, launching them on it is a multi-step process. Approach it like any other social media campaign—establish goals and objectives, set benchmarks and most importantly, figure out the personality they want to project to the world.
Above all the brand humanizing, thought leadership and company updates from the top, their personal brands should shine through on whatever they put out.
If you need help navigating the Social Media landscape, we can work with you in confidence to improve your online presence.
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