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Crisis Management 101: How to be a good man in a social media storm

“You’d be surprised how many business owners lose sight of their logic on social media and blast someone who is unhappy with their products or services – generally because the company has been unwilling to accept the criticism in the first place.”

Social media can do so many things for your business - ensure you stay connected to previous and returning customers, bring in new customers and even boost your business to global recognition. However, with all the advantages of social media come the disadvantages as well - the biggest one being that you open yourself up to critique from every single person on the Internet.

Which means it's incredibly important that you represent your company professionally. We've seen many a company lose their street cred purely from making one (or in some cases many) mistake(s) in their social media management.

So, here are 5 case studies that illustrate 10 ways not to do social media.

Blue Sky Hostel - Click me, I'm a link!

Blue Sky Hostel Social Media Fail

This amazing Facebook thread occurred between the owner of Blue Sky Hostel and a recent visitor, Lou Taylor, after she gave the Glasgow hostel a 1 star review. The unfortunate exchange, derogatory slurs inclusive, occurred between the two - and the hundreds of other participants who jumped on board to enjoy the ride.

Which brings us to:

#1 - Don't insult your customers

This might seem like a pretty obvious 'no-no', but you'd be surprised how many business owners lose sight of their logic on social media and blast someone who is unhappy with their products or services - generally because the company has been unwilling to accept the criticism in the first place.

It's so easy to lose sight of how you should be responding, especially when you feel like you're under attack. The best thing to do is to take a step back, remove yourself from the situation and clear your head before coming back to deal with it rationally and responsibly.

#2 - Accept that you will receive negative feedback

This is particularly true if you are a well-known business. Remember that you do your business in a certain way, which may not work for everyone and leave some customers less than satisfied. This has more to do with their expectations than it does your product or service.

More often than not, I will go with a brand that has negative reviews if their positive reviews outshine the experiences of those preaching negatively against the brand. I will generally just put the naysayers down to being a curmudgeon and I wouldn't be surprised if most other people do the same.

Blue Sky Hostel Social Media Fail

Black Milk Clothing

In this episode of 'offensive things clothing companies have done online', Australian based clothing brand Black Milk Clothing posted an expectation vs. fail meme, which didn't go down too smoothly given it's body shaming inferences. The staff members followed up the complaints with pure passive aggression by telling customers who were unhappy with the post to unlike the page if they saw fit.

This experience taught us a lot of things, but most importantly:

#3 - Don't post things that are offensive, or can be interpreted multiple ways

Black Milk Clothing Social Media Fail

The Internet is a big place, full of a wide variety of opinions and a strong fight for social justice. As a business, it's your responsibility to be aware of any social issues that you may be portraying an opinion about in your posts. At the moment, in particular, posting something that degrades a minority is not a good idea. Equality for oppressed groups such as people of colour, women, people who are disabled and members of the LGBTQIA community is a contentious issue and can not be touched upon lightly, certainly not without strong debate from either side.

As a brand, your job is to ensure you don't marginalise any of your customers, so it's best to stay away from portraying any sort of prejudice at all.

#4 - Take responsibility for your actions

If, in the event, you do post something offensive, take responsibility for it. One of the first and most important things I've learnt about PR crisis management in my master of communications is that if someone has misinterpreted your words, it's because you haven't done enough to explain yourself clearly. The blame should not be put on the person who interpreted the communication incorrectly, but rather, be placed on the communicator for not communicating effectively and therefore opening themselves up to misinterpretation. It's your responsibility if people are offended by your words, so own up to them, recognise their offence and apologise.

Black Milk Clothing Social Media Fail

You may stamp and huff and insist you are in the right, but apologising is the quickest way to ensure the dust settles so you can go back to doing what you do best.

#5 - Don't turn the customer away

Black Milk Clothing Social Media Fail

One of the most surprising things that happened in the Black Milk case is that they began telling loyal customers, who had spent thousands of dollars on their company, to move on if they weren't impressed by the post. That's a sure-fire way to lose a number of other existing and potential customers by promoting an ungracious attitude towards the value of your customers.

Your customers are the ones who build your brand. You can do everything right in the world of marketing, but without customers your business isn't worth a cent. Be grateful for them. Treat them kindly and they will continue to help your business succeed.

Amy's Baking Company

Amy's Baking Company Social Media FailThis is another interesting example that has made the rounds on social media. A couple who appeared on Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares lost control after their episode aired and they received a wave of bad reviews across Facebook, Yelp, Reddit and Twitter. After numerous heated and threatening status updates, they came back a few days later declaring their social media sites had been hacked and that they were sorting out the problem. Everyone saw through the lie.

Which can only translate to these rules:

#6 - Don't lose your cool against the trolls

No matter what, there will be people out there who get sheer enjoyment from showing companies in a bad light. You can often tell the difference between an unhappy customer and a troll. An unhappy customer will be emotionally invested in the situation, and often express their disappointment in the brand. Trolls usually comment with an emotionally detached slew of insults, sometimes rather graphic. These people are not worth wasting your time on, other than the time it takes to delete the comment and block the poster.

#7 - Don't lie to get out of it

Especially if your lie is as transparent as Samy's from Amy's Baking Company. In most cases, you will either be found out or it will come off as so disingenuous that your customers will see right through it. It's better just to tell the truth. You'll get brownie points for it, even if it puts you in a worse light to begin with.

US Airways

If you haven't heard about this story, then prepare for your jaw to drop. I wont go in to the NSFW details of it, but I will tell you that US Airlines accidentally included a pornographic image in a tweet that was responding to a customer complaint. The airline was left red faced as they explained the mix up to the world, stating that the image link, which had been sent to them earlier in the day, had been copied and passed on to be reported to twitter, somehow being pasted in to the text field of the tweet in the process.

What we can learn from this:

#8 - Double-check everything

So please, double check everything you do on your social media and make sure it's following your internal social media guidelines. Check it before it's posted. Check it after it's posted. Get someone else to check it if need be.

US Airways Twitter Disaster

#9 - Act quickly

In US Airway's - case, they took a few hours to remove the post, which left plenty of time for it to be shared and generate controversy and gossip. Had they noticed the mistake straightaway - or even not long after - and removed it quickly, they may have been able to save some face.

Leonda by the Yarra

Gather round children; let me tell you a story.

When I was in my final year at university, we had a graduate's ball. I had every intention of eating my dessert when it was served, but got caught up in a conversation with the person nearby and before I knew it, I turned back and it was gone. In my intoxicated state I spent the rest of the night unbothered by, but come the next day, my mind was set in a different light. How could I have missed out on dessert? It was chocolate mousse - my favourite!

I jumped on to their Facebook page and somewhat politely lamented their wait staff not waiting to ask me if I was finished before taking my dessert away. Within a few hours I had a reply asking for me to email the company with my contact details and the next day I answered a ring of my doorbell to find a small package of cupcakes sitting on my doorstep.

The moral of the story is...

#10 - Take the opportunity to turn the customer experience around

Leonda went above and beyond what they really needed to do in order to address my complaint, but the effort they made meant that I am now a complete advocate for their company, and the way they handled the situation is a great conversation which often has people commenting with "Oh wow! What amazing customer service!" And did I share their generosity on the very platform I had scorned them on? You bet I did.

Well done pupils, you've made it through a comprehensive guide to how not to do social media. Now it's up to you to make sure your social media remains engaging, professional and respectful.

Go forth.

Indietech blog article author - Digital Marketing and Web Design insights
Noted by Penny Wilson

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