Social media may not be as old as other traditional forms of media such as television and radio, but its reach and impact is perhaps better than those channels. After all, there are almost 1.6 billion Facebook users, 305 million active users on Twitter, and 300 million active Instagram users.
Your company getting caught in the middle of a social media crisis is the last thing you would happen, what with the large number of people who are browsing their Facebook feeds, refreshing their Twitter and Instagram timelines. A customer who posts a photo of an insect in the sandwich your staff served can wreak havoc on your business’s reputation, and your restaurant could lose potential clients in the process.
This may lead you to ask, what is the strategy of communication during a social media crisis? Here are some tips to help you get through a challenging time on social media:
1. Respond quickly
The general rule of thumb in dealing with a social media crisis is to respond to it right away. Don’t just stay in a corner and wish that people won’t share the photo or the story that puts your business in a bad light.
Most social media experts insist that the first 24 hours after the photo or story about your story breaks out is the most crucial. The strategy of communication calls for you to immediately respond. The longer you wait to make a move, the worse it will become for your business.
Don’t be another Domino’s Pizza which was burned a few years ago on social media. Several years ago, a YouTube video was leaked. It showed how a Domino’s Pizza worker violated all sorts of health codes while making pizza. The video called “Dirty Domino’s” became viral with more than a million hits. Worse, it was featured by national news outlets.
2. Take full responsibility when necessary
If your company is at fault, don’t be scared to take full responsibility. Say sorry to the customer.
Going back to our example, you will have to reach out to the customer who uploaded the photo. Find him/her, apologize, and explain what happened. You should not expect the customer to forgive your employees or business right away. But if you are able to convince the client that the insect-on-the-sandwich was an honest mistake, then it is likely that the customer will stop sharing the photo or better yet, delete it.
You can offer some compromise, too, like a token gift just for your firm to be able to make it up.
3. Don’t argue on social media
But what if the customer doesn’t agree to delete the post? Inevitably, people will get riled up. They’ll make a lot of comments about your business, most of which understandably are negative. They will likely go to your Facebook page, or swamp your Twitter account with rude remarks.
The strategy of communication in this case is to not argue with other social media users, nor to delete their comments. Your business will look unprofessional if you do so.
The best way to deal with bashers online is to talk to them privately. Use Facebook Messenger or Twitter private message for this purpose. This would ‘isolate’ them from your social media pages and prevent your other followers or fans from reading their harmful posts.
When reading their comments, be as cool and composed as possible. Anger will just fuel the fire, and could prompt you to make inappropriate comments that can cause more harm than good. Remember that it is your company's reputation at stake here. Any comment perceived to be rude and disrespectful will have a negative impact on your business.
Going viral for the wrong reasons can harm your company but having a good strategy of communication can at least prevent further damage.