In recent years, power has shifted from professional media companies to members of the general public, who shape opinion online. Twitter is a channel which has seen a major impact. Though relatively small in comparison to Facebook, for example, Twitter demonstrates the heavy influence of microblogs.
The traditional media agenda is often inspired by Twitterstorms. By social media standards, Twitter is viewed to some extent as a more highbrow medium, used predominantly by professional commentators, journalists and politicians – this is one of the main reasons behind Twitter's significant influence. Another reason for Twitter becoming so big is that it is easy to follow people you do not know, unlike Facebook.
Here is some advice on how your company or organisation can manage a crisis in the context of social media:
7. Communicate consistently
8. Act transparently and with credibility
If your business or organisation is in the midst of a crisis, it is important that your communication is consistent. Many a company has fallen victim to getting so caught up in putting out fires during crises that they forget about turning off automated posts. For a cake factory battling an incident with poisoned cookies, an automated post in their own channels highlighting some "Lovely biscuits for midsummer" won’t do them any favours. If you end up in a crisis, communicate openly and credibly. Brands must remember that in today's society, transparency is a necessity. It is always best to admit your mistake and show a real commitment to change.
And whatever you do, don’t lie.
9. Respond to criticism
10. Leave negative feedback or criticism intact
Make sure to respond to criticism. If you think the criticism is unfounded, don’t be afraid to address this issue. If the presence of a "troll" or someone who simply wants to provoke a reaction isn’t obvious, it is important to take the criticism seriously. Agreeing with every negative comment is not realistic, but looking at posts objectively is essential – as is responding with well-thought-through, well-founded arguments as to why your opinion contrasts with the critic’s. Where critics have a clear point, acknowledge that they are right and that you intend to take steps to correct what has gone wrong.
If your brand is met with criticism, let the posts remain as they are (preferably beside or accompanied by your brand’s response). In situations where the poster is clearly set on provoking emotional responses with harassment, you can of course remove the post. Leaving these less complimentary posts as they are is otherwise recommended; if anything, this demonstrates an open attitude which in turn retains credibility. It is important that you show that you respect the criticism and the user behind it; the focus is really on their perception. Hopefully your answers and explanations counteract the criticism. Even if you have not managed to do so, you will, at the very least, earn the respect of the person in question.
11. Inform sufficiently
12. Don’t neglect internal communication
Criticism is usually based on misconceptions due to lack of information. Therefore, be sure to quickly disseminate accurate information about the issues at hand. Quickly leading with more information can often extinguish the flame before it takes hold. Ignorance leads to speculation and conjecture, which may aggravate the situation. Although the information you are about to release is not in your company or organisation’s interests, it is still important that you communicate it. With regard to transparency (as mentioned above), the importance of doing this is clear. At the end of the day you earn absolutely nothing by concealing details. Rather, you win respect and credibility when you dare to communicate information which is potentially negative for your company or brand.
In an ensuing crisis, it is important that the organisation pulls together and feels empowered. Everybody – from the shift staff to management level – should be on the same wavelength. In the end, it may be beneficial to entrust the team with the full picture, especially where you need to control the flow of classified information.
It is common for companies or organisations in crisis to forget the importance of internal communication. Employees at all levels, who may have access to information about the company via social or news media, may reveal undesirable details without being kept in the loop. In addition, it may also be devastating for internal morale, which is particularly important in moments where their organisation faces a crisis and a lot of external pressure.
13. Honesty is everything
14. Apologise when appropriate
It has been mentioned earlier, but bears repeating. It is vital that you are honest in your messaging. An honest approach to communication is essential, whether you use social media, or a combination of distribution channels. You will be surprised to discover how understanding your most adamant critics can be, even if your company or organisation has done something careless.
Apologise if it is obvious that this is the right course of action. An apology must be sincere. Combine the lessons the company or organisation has learned from the incident with communicating what steps you intend to take to prevent future mistakes. If you have not had time to analyse the situation or if you are not sure what you can do to prevent errors in the future, then say so. Always communicate a desire to develop an action plan and adapt to new guidelines.
15. Leverage ambassadors and influencers
16. Accept that reality cannot be changed
As an Observify user, you can quickly identify your most devoted ambassadors and influencers in social media. During a crisis it might be a good idea to use external endorsements from people who can stand up to your defence. A person who does not have a direct link to your company or organisation can lend significant weight and credibility in defending you. The scope of your ambassadors and influencers is easily measured with the Observify platform.
Finally, be realistic; you cannot always spin away your situation. If you’ve done something wrong, be sure to make changes. Some storms don’t settle until you change what has come under fire. An example of this is Swedish bank SEB being forced to change pension benefits for senior managers when their excessive bonuses were revealed and came under severe criticism.
Read our take on social media crisis management from the beginning with Part 1.