The following is a guest post by Torri Myler. Her bio is at the end.
Marketers are well-aware of what a social media disaster can mean to a brand. Remember what happened to Chrysler in 2011? The company responsible for the @ChryslerAutos Twitter account famously tweeted “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f#*!ing drive”. Needless to say, consumers were outraged and Chrysler quickly deleted the tweet and apologized.
If one little tweet caused such serious harm to the reputation of a strong brand, just think what a social media misstep might mean to yours.
How do you avoid risking your reputation on social media? By implementing a firm social media policy which will ensure a seamless operation under a set of clear standards and rules to reduce the probability of a social media gaffe.
Here are some tips to help you develop a great policy and protect your brand against PR disasters.
1. Establish the basics of your policy
When developing your social media policy, you should ask yourself a few questions:
- What is it that you’re trying to accomplish on social media?
- What goals would you like to realize?
- What kinds of activity will you undertake?
- On which platforms will you be present?
It’s time to think about the practical side of the matter as well. How will your strategy respond to key industry changes? How do you plan to reinforce it across the entire organization?
It’s clear that even employees who will have no direct contact with your accounts should be aware of your policy – communicate key messages to them and prepare information packages for those involved in social media. Clarity is your best friend when setting these rules.
What can happen when posting on social media isn’t double checked? Recall that unfortunate gif of exploding Challenger posted by American Apparel on their Tumblr page. Having received lots of negative feedback, the organization made it even worse by communicating that their social media manager was born after the tragedy and had no idea about what the picture represented.
2. Pick the right speakers for your brand
Your policy should regulate who will have access to your social media accounts and how they will be used. When specifying people authorized for posting on behalf of your organization, you should note whether there are any restrictions to be placed on this authorization, for instance specific regions or employee teams.
Your policy should indicate a list of traits employees are to possess in order to be considered the right fit for the job. Even if a professional is talented, they might not be the best choice for representing your brand online. If a quick Google search reveals less than popular political opinions, beware of letting them speak to your audience.
One such situation happened to a media company. IAC’s PR executive (the irony!) tweeted the following right before boarding a 12-hour flight from London to Cape Town: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just Kidding. I’m White!”. Not the best publicity example, right?
(Screenshot source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2527330/Blonde-female-PR-executive-tweets-Going-Africa-Hope-I-dont-AIDS-Just-kidding-Im-white-causes-international-outrage-likely-fired.html)
Your policy should provide a clear definition of a social media crisis – it means something different to every brand. Indicate which posts can be categorized as crisis and suggest a plan of action for each variety to help reduce the negative impact of such content.
This is something you’ll probably learn over time; after all, we learn best through our own mistakes. Establishing a crisis policy which works specifically for your audience is crucial.
Consider Twitter hashtags. Companies introducing new marketing campaigns create hashtags, but consumers use them in a completely different and often damaging way. This is something that happened to McDonald’s last year – the debut of a refreshed version of their favorite mascot, Ronald McDonald, was accompanied by a simple hashtag #RonaldMcDonald. Needless to say, the plan backfired as consumers started to use it to criticize the makeover.
4. Clarify employee involvement
Your policy should ensure that all employees have sufficient understanding of it. You need to decide whether you’d like them to participate as representatives of your brand and if so, which rules they should follow in order to minimize the probability of a social media fiasco.
Consider this social media gaffe initiated by Twitter’s own CFO, Anthony Noto. He tweeted a message which was probably private. It referred to Twitter’s plans for acquiring an app called Shots, backed by none other than Justin Bieber: “I still think we should buy them. He is on your schedule for Dec 15 or 16-we will need to sell him. i have a plan”.
(Screenshot source: http://uk.businessinsider.com/anthony-noto-twitter-cfo-dm-fail-2014-11)
Interactions between your brand and audience should also be included in your policy. Sketch possible scenarios of such exchanges and prepare your staff for dealing with different responses. Establish a procedure for responding – it will come in handy for negative comments.
If done right, responding to negative reviews and comments can become a significant marketing boost. Smart Car did just that when it playfully responded to a negative tweet sent by a consumer.
(Screenshot source: http://mashable.com/2012/06/21/bird-poop-smartcar/)
A firm policy will allow you time to decide which approach is best – sometimes playfulness really pays off.
Finally, your policy should establish key social listening tasks for your team – the schedule, tools, and goals are the basics.
Why is social listening so important? Because it allows to reduce the response time and instantly react when something bad is happening.
A delayed response will only make it harder to manage the crisis. A web event quickly gathers steam and soon it’s way out of your control. Monitoring online conversations will help you to spot and address it before it brings further damage.
After sending a very inappropriate response to a customer complaint on Twitter and only deleting it after an hour, US Airways stood no chance against the social media machine. The embarrassing screenshot traveled and made headlines all over the place.
With an understandable social media policy, you can continue your social media interactions without the stress of a looming PR disaster.
Cendrine’s note: For more information on social media policy, you can also check out my slides and tips.
Torri Myler works for http://www.bankopening.co.uk/ – a UK bank branches finder including banks’ contact data as well as bank opening times and closing hours. She believes in all things digital and tech-related to drive business and personal progress.