How to Manage Your Social Media Crisis

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One of the great fears that businesses have when they contemplate jumping into social media is that negative comments will create a social media crisis.

Fortunately, most businesses will not experience a social media crisis on the scale of the Dell laptop batteries or the Domino’s debacle. However, to paraphrase Reuters, “one woman’s crisis, is another woman’s rant.” Meaning: all things are relative.

All organizations, no matter how good, face criticism from time to time. On social networks, this criticism can easily become amplified. Knowing how to handle negative comments can help prevent things from getting out of control.

The first step is understanding who the commenter is and the nature of the comment. I recently helped a client who had a negative comment about their products posted to one of their distributors’ Facebook pages. I first asked the usual PR questions: Do you know this person? How credible and influential is she in your market? Is her statement true or does it include inaccuracies?

Clarifying incorrect information is essential, but we have to remember that opinion can’t be argued. Thus, we responded with facts, but gave the poster the opportunity to voice her opinion.

In these situations, I usually refer to the Air Force Blog Assessment tool to determine how and if to respond to negative comments. Though several years old, it’s still useful and relevant today for all social media channels. David Meerman Scott originally blogged about it, as did Jeremiah Owyang, who posted it on his Flickr account.

I always provide a copy of this tool to clients as part of their social media training, and I encourage community managers to post this on the wall by their desk for easy reference.

Diane Thieke is busy dealing with a crisis of her own: There’s no cream in the frig. It’s time to visit a satellite office where coffee and all its accoutrements are readily available. Follow her on Twitter: @thiekeds.

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