Social media is one of the most potent customer outreach platforms ever invented. Able to reach potential customers and fans the world over, social media connects a business in ways that were previously thought impossible.
Social Media Risks
Yet social media is a decidedly double edged sword, a bad social media crisis can anger the public, garner bad press, and earn long time ire that can take months (or even years) to wear off. While the threat of a social media slip-up can be intimidating, there are a number of ways you can prevent and mitigate the damage.
One of the most famous social media crises of all time occurred to Applebee’s (the national restaurant chain) in early 2013, and remains to this day to be one of the textbook examples for what not to do in a crisis. It all started when a pastor signed their meal receipt’s tip line with the following, “I Give God 10 percent Why do you Get 18.” The waitress was understandably upset by this comment, and took a photo of the receipt, posting it to Reddit.
Her photo went viral, and garnered her a lot of public support. Applebee’s responded by firing her for “violating customer privacy,” despite the fact that they had posted a similar (but much more positive) receipt on their official twitter less than two weeks prior. Retribution was swift as the story was picked up throughout social media, in the news, and beyond.
Applebee’s responded by doubling down on their decision and arguing with dozens of angry commenters, across multiple platforms (primarily Twitter and Facebook). Their poor handling of the situation led to over 20,000 negative comments in just over 2 days.
Finally realizing that the battle was long since lost, Applebee’s hid all mention of the incident, and stuck their heads firmly in the sand. It still took months to blow over, and odds are most social media users will still have some recollection of the incident.
So what can we learn from this incident, and others like it?
How can your average company avoid getting involved in such crises, and how can they mitigate the damage once it’s begun?
Remember that it’s important to assess the damage. Not everything starts out a crisis, and if the situation is small enough it might be ok to just let it ride with careful monitoring.
A great example is when a customer complains on twitter about your product or service, or when someone posts a negative experience they had in their dealings with you. These kinds of things are something to keep an eye on, but really the biggest danger is overreacting.
What if your crisis starts slipping towards what Applebee’s experienced, going viral as a hashtag (or “bashtag”)? At this level it’s important to defend your overall reputation, while not outright admitting wrongdoing. Emphasize that the situation is isolated, and doesn’t represent a larger pattern within your company or organization.
This level is a great time to consider a social media reputation firm, their expertise can get the situation under control, and keep it from escalating into something much worse. Unfortunately, a crisis can still come unexpectedly, and one wrong tweet, or account hack, can become a storm of negative attention.
These kinds of rapid escalations are where apologies need to come into play, with an emphasis on acknowledging what you did wrong and what you’re doing to fix it. Be as sincere and direct as possible, don’t mince words, and don’t attempt to shift blame. In addition, make sure to remove any offending material as soon as possible.
Building a reputation on the back of our proprietary software designs, BrightPast is one of the better choices because we can carefully eliminate your negative crisis from internet searches, while simultaneously boosting the positive. This, combined with comprehensive reputation management, ensures that you’ll weather the social media storm, and come out brighter on the other side.