The Social Media Strategist

  • View
    77

  • Download
    13

Embed Size (px)

Text of The Social Media Strategist

SOCIAL MEDIASTRATEGISTCHRISTOPHER BARGER

THE

Build a Successful Program from the Inside Out

New York Chicago San Francisco Lisbon London Madrid Mexico City Milan New Delhi San Juan Seoul Singapore Sydney Toronto

C H A P T E R

12

W H E N A LL H E LL BR E A K S LOOSE

I

n business as in life, things can and will go wrong. A customer occasionally has a bad experience with your productor worse yet, your customer service department. A defective product must be recalled. A corporate officer attracts public attention for embarrassing reasons, or we run a television commercial that upsets or offends someone. None of these things are planned for or intended, but they happen in spite of our best efforts. Thats life; stuff happens. The real test we face is not in avoiding these things but in how we deal with them. The same maxim certainly applies to social media. One of your employees says or does something controversial or offmessage within a social network; one of your campaigns is met with scathing criticism; worst of all, a crisis arises in your overall business that must be dealt with in the social Web as well as the traditional media. Just as in life, the true test is not always in the crisis itself but in how you handle it. But the strategies and tactics for successfully defusing or riding out a crisis on the social Web can be different from those used for traditional media.

195

T H E S O C I A L M E D I A S T R AT E G I S T

The Opportunity to ShineIn the movie Apollo 13, theres a classic scene in which NASA leadership realizes that the astronauts are in life-threatening danger and that their loss in space is a very realistic possibility. This could be the worst disaster NASA has ever faced, the director says. But Flight Director Gene Kranz, played by Ed Harris, responds with incredulity and determination. With all due respect, sir, he says, I believe this is going to be our finest hour. Its a lesson businesses should keep in mind when a crisis befalls them, especially in the era of social media. The conventional wisdom might suggest that a crisis is frightening enough in an environment with a 24-7 news cycle. Add the prospect of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of unhappy people tweeting about your organization or thousands of angry messages being left on your Facebook page, and the idea becomes positively terrifying. Most of the people at big companies Ive talked to go a little pale at the idea of facing the public via a social network during a crisis. Its true that in the social space there are dangers from rapid spread of misinformation or coming under constant attack from the haters who dislike your brand no matter what you do. But the other side of the coin, as it were, is that social networks provide a fast and effective way to convey information during a crisis, to have a much larger audience see you actively trying to resolve the crisis by doing the right thing rather than just trying to protect your reputation. Just as with NASA during the Apollo 13 crisis, if people see your organization trying to fi x the problem or address an issue rather than just protect its reputation, the way you handle a crisis can actually be a significant opportunity for your organization. This was true in 1970, and it is especially true in the era of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.

196

WHEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE

First Things First: The Best Defense Is a Good OffenseIf the first time your organization starts to act in the social Web is when you have a crisis, youre too late. Think about it. Social networks are built on conversation and the development of relationships. In a crisis, youre asking people to trust you and accept the information you provide. But if you havent ever been active in these networks before, how can you ask people to take you at face value? Youve never talked to them before, but now when youve got a problem, youre interested? Why shouldnt they believe that youre just a team of spin doctors and PR people coming in to do damage control? Heres an unpleasant but demonstrative parallel: Say that someone in your neighborhood is accused of a horrible crime. If the alleged criminal is someone who always stays in his house, never talks to or makes eye contact with anyone, is antisocial, and doesnt make a point of joining neighborhood activities or of getting to know anyone in the subdivision or building, how easy is it to believe that hes guiltyor at least capable of the crime hes charged with? You dont know the person; hes made no effort to get to know you, so you have no reason not to believe whats been said about him and what hes been charged with. If the next day, when the story of his arrest has made the local news and hes out on bail, he knocks on your door for the first time, sticks out his hand to shake yours, introduces himself to you, and asks you not to believe what youve heard or what people are saying, how would you react? Do you think youd give that person the benefit of the doubt? Invite him in for coffee and ask him to tell you his side of the story? I didnt think so. But lets take the same scenario, only this time the police charge a neighbor youve waved to over the fence for years or chatted with from time to time in the hallway in your building. Maybe your kids have played together. He goes around with all the other parents on Halloween night trick-or-treating, and hes active in197

T H E S O C I A L M E D I A S T R AT E G I S T

the home owners association with you. Maybe youve even had a beer or two with him in his living room while watching the game, or he and his wife have been to your house for dinner a time or two. Now think about how youd react to that knock on the door. If he comes over and says, I know what youve heard, I know what theyre saying, but Im asking you to listen to me and believe me when I tell you its not like that. This neighbor would get far more benefit of the doubt, wouldnt he? Trust is a capital commodity in social networksand if you havent invested in it before you have a crisis, youll have none to draw on. Your best effort in using social media in a crisis is to use it before you have a crisis. Theres another reason to proactively get involved in social networks before you have a problem: if youre involved and you have established a presence in social networks before you have a crisis, youre less vulnerable to impostors. In the spring and summer of 2010, Americans watched in horror and disgust as the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil well, operated by BP, spewed millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. While efforts to cap the well and stop the spill faltered, BPs public relations team also faltered. Ill stay away from discussing their many gaffes committed outside of the social media space, but within social networks, the company had not been particularly active. BP America did have a Twitter account, but it wasnt used very frequently and thus had only about 2,500 followers in early May 2010, despite having been in existence for nearly two years.1 The companys sporadic use of Twitter as a communications tool meant that not many people on Twitter knew BP was presentand that left it ripe for impersonation. On May 19, 2010one month after the explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon rigsomeone set up the Twitter account @BPGlobalPR. Though the account was a spoof, it used BPs logo and appeared at first blush to be affiliated with the company. In June 2010, both BP and Twitter instructed the account to make more clear that it was a parody, which is in fact consis198

WHEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE

tent with Twitters policy on parody accounts. The account owners initially complied, although a check in October 2010 revealed that they had reverted to the version of their bio they were using before the June action. 2, 3 The tweets from @BPGlobalPR were hysterical in a gallowshumor sense. They satirized every PR fumble committed by the real BP and presented the story of the oil spill in a light that was extremely unflattering to the company. In the month following its establishment, the false account picked up more than 150,000 followers. While many realized the account was a parody, some most assuredly did not. The devastating satire continued long after the well was finally capped; as of mid-October 2010, @ BPGlobalPR had more than 10 times the following of the real company, @BP_America187,191 to 18,411.4 While BP did have an official presence on Twitter before the Deepwater Horizon accident, the fact that it underutilized the channel as a communications tool certainly helped some Twitter users believe that the phony account actually represented BP. The companys underuse of Twitter prior to the accident also contributed, in my opinion, to the fact that virtually none of the conversation on Twitter was in defense of BP. In fact, I didnt observe anyone even referring critics to talk to the real BP via Twittersomething that might well have happened had BP had a more notable presence in the months prior to the tragedy. A robust and active presence on Twitter will never be enough to prevent satirical or parody accounts. Nor will having an official Facebook page prevent dozens of anti-your-company Facebook pages or groups from springing up. But youll be less vulnerable than if youre not present and active within these networks. One other thing all companies and organizations should also consider doing: try to snap up as many variations of their names as possible to prevent phony accounts. Just as most wise brands now buy up domains that could be used against them (yourcompanysucks.com is the most common example), youd be well advised to grab up Twitter handles like @TheReal_YourCo or199

T H E S O C I A L M E D I A S T R AT E G I S T

@YourCo_PR, etc. If you dont get them, someone else will and while Twitte