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BLOGSocial Media Damage Control

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Social Media, StrategyTagged as: , ,

Picture this scenario: you get an email from your manager, letting you know that a complaint (or a picture, or a video) about your organization has gone “viral”.  You check it out, and indeed it is embarrassing… and it is everywhere.  What do you do?

In a previous post, I suggested several things to consider before posting a complaint, but in this situation the shoe is on the other foot and the damage is spiralling out of control.

Here are ten Social Media Damage Control tips:

1) Acknowledge the issue publicly and openly: it is critical to ensure that the story doesn’t morph from a specific complaint to how you are handling the issue.  If it does, the impact of your behavior will linger well after the issue is resolved.

2) Tell your side of the story: sometimes the twitterverse/blogosphere/general public is upset because the facts that are presented are incomplete, or are framed to show you in the worst possible light.  While respecting rules of confidentiality and privacy, adding the facts as you see them to the discussion adds important data points… and empowers those who might advocate on your behalf.

3) Mobilize your allies:  Employees, families, customers, and suppliers all have a stake in your success.  If asked, most would be happy to either chime in on your behalf, or strongly advocate for you.  Mobilizing can be done in two ways:  through the informal posts of individual people, and through a formal “ask” of a few key friends of your organization.  No longer is it exclusively the job of a corporate spokesperson to get the message out.

4) Engage in the conversation:  Use official channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Discussion groups, Blog, etc) to address individual queries, and to actively participate in the conversations that are occuring.

5) Ignore:  There is always a risk that your reaction – however small – will instead actually inflame the issue further. One possible counter-strategy is to ask one or two allies if they can comment on the offending post, instead of you doing it directly.

6) Redirect:  Issues have a shorter life when other items become more newsworthy.  Creating positive news redirects the general public’s attention to something that contradicts the underlying assertions made by the complainer.  A great example of this (although executed quite clumsily) was Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt to redirect attention away from the movie The Social Network, where he was portrayed in a less than flattering light.  Zuckerberg made a donation of $100 million to the Newark NJ public education system, at precisely the same time the movie was released.  Was the strategy successful?  As one part of a larger overall strategy, it played it’s part. But expensive!

7) Enforce terms of service:  Some online behaviors may be contrary to the terms of service of the particular Social Media venue.  A complaint  to the venue may spur them into action, removing the offending item – and thereby removing some of the issue’s viral “fuel”.

8) Legal action:  When the issue crosses the line into the area of slander, libel, trademark infringement, or some other cause, legal action – or threatening it – can provide some relief.  On the other hand, people may harbor even greater suspicions about you, as you were unable or unwilling to debate or address the issue in the open.

9) Solve the problem beforehand:  Many crises go viral because of a service gap, product malfunction, or the insensitivity of an employee to a customer’s feelings.  Avoid viral crises by preventing them from happening in the first place: improve your service quality, improve your product quality, and improve the customer experience.

10) Monitor:  Use tools to monitor the social web for relevant posts and user sentiment, so that you can quickly address issues as they appear.  Without monitoring, you may think the problem is solved, but the “virus” merely moved to another social media venue.


What would you do if you got that phone call today:  a major crisis has just sprung up, it has gone viral on the net, and you have to deal with it – fast.  This week, put together a digital crisis plan: based on several disaster scenarios, how would you react?  What would you (or others) do first?

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