How to deal with (and prevent) social crisis situations

Post by @ChelseaHartling

A lot of times in crisis situations, companies will let their social accounts go dark rather than face the doomsday music sounding their name from the trending topics list. However, silence during a crisis is actually quite deafening in the social space. This kind of action (or rather, lack of action) sends the message that you have something to hide. But you can’t hide in your Twitter closet because the doors are transparent. People know you’re in there, covering your mouth like a kid who thinks closing his eyes equals invisibility. The Internet is a fast and sometimes unforgiving space, unless you address your mistakes immediately.

But first we must take a step back. First you have to care about your audience. It all starts with your ‘Why’. If your ‘why’ isn’t in the right place to begin with, crisis situations are doomed to become disasters. Reminder: Social communication simply amplifies what already exists.

Take Mitt Romney, for example. After his very public loss to President Obama in the 2012 Presidential elections, all social communication came to a dead halt. Aside from one Facebook post wishing his fans a Merry Christmas, neither he, nor anyone in his camp, has posted on Facebook or Twitter since November 10th – just 4 days after the election. There’s a golden opportunity to build trust and loyalty when your audience is hanging on your every word. He took the stage and then turned his back on his following, proving that his intentions within the social space might not have been genuine. What kind of message does that send to his fans and the people who tirelessly campaigned for him throughout the year? Social media wasn’t invented for advertisers and campaigners. It was invented for communicators and if you want to build a relationship, you can’t just disappear on your loyalists.

A recent crisis situation that was not dealt with head on was the KFC chicken brain debacle. After a customer found a disgusting brain-like substance in his fried chicken he took to the social space to post an image, which went viral and set the social media fire ablaze.

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The fast food chain continued on with a regular stream of marketing messages as if nothing had happened. While they were trying to ignore the brainy poultry that was running rampant across the Internet, people were noticing and wondering what exactly KFC was hiding behind its kitchen doors. By ignoring the situation instead of owning up to it, they may have potentially damaged their brand for a long time to come.

Crisis situations are inevitably going to come up and when they do, there is an inherent need for social media education, and specifically a stop, drop, and roll plan. Remember during the Presidential election when a KitchenAid employee accidentally tweeted an insensitive comment about the President’s Grandmother from the @KitchenAidUSA account? They immediately issued an apology, addressed the mistake, and offered a solution. They stepped up to the plate and owned it. The result? News outlets covered the situation the next morning but they also covered the brand’s response. Instantly the KitchenAid brand surfaced from the sea of sameness and became relevant during a peak news time frame.

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Or remember when UFC president Dana White accidentally tweeted his personal phone number out to 4.3 million people? He chose to lean into the discomfort of his mistake and give his audience what they wanted, which ultimately received overwhelmingly positive feedback from his fans.

Our motto at Digital Royalty for dealing with social fiascoes has always been to face the music and address it head on, just make sure your ‘why’ is solid to begin with. Social communication is about humans connecting with humans and we all know humans make mistakes. Our society loves a good comeback story and resilience is an honorable trait in the real world as well as the virtual world. Rather than try to avoid an issue through silence, use your social channels for their intended purpose and communicate with your audience. Your loyal followers will respect you for it, and it may even increase their faithfulness to your brand.

Does your business have a social media crisis management plan? In our experience, the majority of these social debacles could have been prevented with education.

 

A Powerful Collision of the Virtual and Physical Worlds

SoxPhoneBannerPost by: @AlanaGolob

Myself and Nate Ludens were just in Chicago this past weekend for the White Sox’s annual SoxFest. My second SoxFest and Digital Royalty’s fourth to attend. During SoxFest thousands of fans get unique access to their favorite players and the entire White Sox organization through seminars, autograph sessions and so on. The challenge each year is how to create an experience online for those fans that don’t have the ability to attend SoxFest. One word? #SoxPhone.

This concept was originally created one special evening when the President of the UFC, Dana White, accidentally tweeted his phone number to his millions of followers on Twitter. The tweet was intended to be a Direct Message (DM). The social media mistake, turned into a social media success, when Digital Royalty introduced the concept of Fan Phone (watch video). The social media stunt was scaled to other fighters within the UFC, and eventually sponsorship opportunities surfaced.

The White Sox first introduced #SoxPhone during spring training last season with a few different players taking fans calls in-between workouts. Based on the success of Spring Training and the positive sentiment from players, we decided to take #SoxPhone to the next level and conducted 11 different #SoxPhones with 11 different players, throughout the weekend at SoxFest.

Here’s a quick look at how #SoxPhone plays out:

  • We created a Google Voice number and synced it to an existing phone number. In this case it was my phone. Side note, big thanks to our Tech Cowboy, TJ Hucka, who came to my rescue a few times when I wasn’t able to deactivate the number once the #SoxPhone was over. Fans will call as long as you keep the line open, so at one point I had about 50 incoming calls on my phone before TJ was able to deactivate it for me. Panic attack.
  • Prior to each #SoxPhone, @WhiteSox sent a tweet that included the custom number, typically including a photo of the particular player who was taking the calls and encouraged fans to give the player a call. The photo makes it real deal for fans.

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  • Each player answered calls as long as they wanted to, typically 5-10 minutes in this case. There was a live twitter feed in the booth, so the players were able to see fans tweet about their call within seconds of hanging up, which was a cool experience for them. Most all players would have continued to take calls far beyond that time allotment if their schedule permitted.
  • Fans typically tweet about their experience after the call and @WhiteSox and players on Twitter actively engaged back.

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  • We took video footage of the calls to post online so others can experience it as well. Virtual storytelling. Here’s a video of pitcher Chris Sale having fun with #SoxPhone.

The fans were stoked, the players had a great time and actually verbally expressed on multiple occasions that they really enjoyed the #SoxPhone. And, I was personally psyched to witness all of the happiness being had in the virtual and physical worlds. It’s a win-win and an equal value exchange for the fans, the players and the White Sox organization. Engagement and sentiment climbed with each round of #SoxPhone and those fans who actually had the opportunity to speak to their favorite player, instantly climbed the fan loyalty ladder and will be fans for life. The White Sox weren’t using #SoxPhone as a sales tool, they were open to experimenting and delivering the golden rule of social media: Value. When, where, and how their audience wanted to receive it.

#SoxPhone wasn’t the only social media stunt or activity happening over the course of #SoxFest, it was one of several concepts that were implemented this year. Others included, Hide & Tweets, Photo Scavenger Hunts, “Guess the Autograph” contests on Instagram, mobile alerts and active engagement on all outlets. When all of those activities are combined it’s a magical social combination.

To learn more about this concept and other social media stunts for events, we encourage you to take our Digital Royalty University class, “The Art of Event Activation”.

First Social Media Incentive Program for Athletes

By: Britt Johnson

The NBA, NFL, and other professional sports leagues are all too familiar with handing down fines to athletes (and owners/coaches) who violate their social media policies. The UFC has no interest in collecting money from its own athletes. Instead, they are doing the reverse in handing out the cash—$240,000 annually to be exact.

This week UFC president Dana White announced the first-ever incentive-based social media program for fighters during the UFC Summit in Las Vegas where more than 300 fighters were required to go through Digital Royalty University social media training. The allotted money will be dispersed as quarterly bonuses to fighters who make the most impact with their personal Twitter accounts.

Competition was in the air as the program was announced to more than 300 fighters at the annual UFC Summit at the Red Rock Casino in Vegas. Thousands of fans, fighters and media outlets followed along here using the #UFCSummit Hashtag where thousands of tweets were exchanged real-time throughout the week. Mashable and Sports Business Journal also covered the news.

The UFC understands the power of social media. The goal for the incentive program is to encourage the athletes to embrace these new communication tools and increase fan engagement. The UFC and related Twitter accounts are already known for their fighter-to-fighter interactions. The heightened engagement will strengthen the organization’s network, allowing for quick message delivery, more fighter-to-fan interaction and most importantly it provides exclusive value to new and existing fans.

Starting June 1st, Stikeforce and UFC fighters will be divided into four groups depending on their number of followers. From those groups, three winners will be named in the following categories, each receiving $5,000 for most followers gained, highest percentage of followers gained and most creative campaign.

A social media powerhouse himself, Dana knows the influence Twitter followers carry. Factor in a few hundred additional social media-savvy athletes, and you have a force to be reckoned with.

For more information about Digital Royalty University, email Info@TheDigitalRoyalty.com

UFC and LA Kings Keeping It Trendy Worldwide

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You may have noticed some virtual jump high-fives between the Digital Royalty team this past Saturday. We were excited and here’s why.

Digital Royalty concepted and implemented the first-ever National Hockey League Hashtag Battle between the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche. The goal for the night was to raise money for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Kroenke Sports Charities as part of the NHL’s month-long Hockey Fights Cancer campaign. And of course, some friendly twivalry. The competition was on: #GoKings vs. #GoAvs. The teams donated $1 for each hashtag tweeted.

We wanted to get #GoKings in front of more than just hockey fans. Our broader target: the general sports fan or Saturday night tweeter who was looking to tweet for the greater good. But there were a few obstacles on the ice.

The Kings vs. Avs game wasn’t nationally televised, therefore, wasn’t easily accessible by the average sports fan. On top of that, it was a Saturday during college football season. The epic UFC 121, heavyweight championship event, was also taking place in the target market (Los Angeles) plus the San Francisco Giants were trying to win the National League Pennant against the Philadelphia Phillies. (Note, the UFC is a dR client as well so our team was performing a social balancing act. Everything netted out as planned. See below.)

We knew people would definitely be tweeting heavily about sports. But would they be tweeting about the Kings vs Avs game? We needed to influence a few key groups:

Kings and Avs fans. These teams have an intense rivalry and we wanted to translate it into a social competition. With bragging rights on the line, the tweets came pouring in.
NHL fans. The support of the NHL helped get the word out about the battle to hockey fans who may not have been closely following the Kings or Avalanche. This Coyotes fan is a perfect example.
Online Influencers. We targeted specific sports-influencers who helped us get the battle into the pathways of their followers. Baseball fan and actress, Alyssa Milano tweeted about the battle as well as the the pro-soccer team LA Galaxy. LIVESTRONG CEO, Doug Ulman (a pioneer at using social media for the greater good) supported our mission as did Sarah Palin who must not have been busy with SNL.
Charitable-minded. We anticipated that by this point the #GoKings mission would be reaching the eyes of people who would participate solely to help raise money for higher objective. We knew this had worked when we started seeing “I’m not a hockey fan but…” tweets.

With the chain-of-support in action, #GoKings leaped to the number one worldwide trending topic by the end of the first period (for you non-hockey fans, that’s approximately 20 minutes). Our trending topic status added welcome fuel to the fire. By the end of the game the official hashtag score was #GoKings 29,374 and #GoAvs 13,876.

We scored three W’s with the hashtag battle. Each team shared a new kind of spotlight and exposed their brand in the pathways of new fans, they increase their following on Twitter and most importantly the charitable organizations benefited.

In the meantime, the UFC 121 event was taking place in Anaheim, CA. To generate buzz on that front, Amy Martin was on the scene with UFC President Dana White sending out his personal phone number to more than 5 million UFC fans on facebook and twitter so they could speak with him directly and share their picks for the evening. By the end of the night, the UFC secured 8 of the 10 worldwide trending topics as the world watched history in the making.

Needless to say, we’ve posted this on our fridge at the dR office for a few days.

Celebrity Shares Phone Number with 4.3 Million Fans

It happened so quickly, some of us may not have even noticed. But one night, several weeks ago, a president of a professional sports league sent out his office phone number to over 1 million fans. By accident.

What happened next? Well, the expected. The phone began ringing off the hook and fans retweeted the phone number, spreading it like wildfire. What was less expected was when the pro sports president began fielding these calls and carried on conversations with numerous fans for close to 90 minutes.

This was Dana White, President of UFC. What was Dana’s initial reaction? “If I’m dumb enough to tweet my number on here, I’m going to sit here and I’m going to talk to these people.”

At Digital Royalty, we listened to the overwhelmingly positive fan feedback and knew we could build upon this situation, learn something from the “accident” and make it something bigger. We used Dana’s serendipitous, misfired tweet as inspiration to develop a concept that will give fans unprecedented access to this larger than life personality. We always set out to bridge the virtual and physical worlds, providing value to fans when, where and how they want to receive it.

Dana now has a socially dedicated phone line with a number that will be available through all his social media channels, which total 4.3 million fans on Facebook and Twitter combined. Whenever Dana has free time to chat with fans, he’ll turn the phone on and invite the 4.3+ million people to give him a ring. Taking time to talk with fans is something that Dana really enjoys. This concept wouldn’t work without an authentic desire to connect with his fans.
When asked about accidently tweeting his number, Dana said: “And then when it was over I was like, that was cool, I’m actually glad that happened.”

On Saturday, Dana gave his phone number to the 4.3 million fans. Within 5 minutes, his number reached over 9 million people via social media due to celebrities retweeting the number. We shared the experience virtually by hypersyndicating video of this taking place for his entire network to watch. The fan reaction was just as we anticipated. Fans from the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and all over the world called in to make their predications moments before the event. A powerful testament to social media providing a unique value to fans that can’t be found anywhere else.

We’re Only Limited by Our Imagination

Imagine this. The president of the fastest growing sport, who has 1.1 million Twitter followers, tweets that he’s headed to a bar, he has free tickets and he wants to play you in Pop A Shot.

This actually just happened.

I was in San Diego with UFC President, Dana White and this is one of many social media stunts we’ve pulled off over the past year.

The goal was to integrate a marketing partner and a commercial partner. Enter Bud Light and Dave & Buster’s, two brands that fly the same social media flag as the UFC.

The video speaks for itself, but let us share a few public numbers:

  • 12: Number of seconds it took fans to show up after Dana’s tweet
  • 300: Number of dollars Dana gave to a fan who received a speeding ticket while racing to the event
  • 15 million: Number of directly accessible impressions made within two hours via social media (Facebook & Twitter)
  • 200: Number of people who showed up at Dave & Buster’s within minutes
  • 100: Number of free beers given to the first 100 fans to arrive and say “Hey UFC, give me a Bud Light!
  • 60: Score of the lucky fan who won a seat next to Dana at the event
  • 2: Number of media outlets who showed up to cover the story (NBC San Diego and Heavy.com)

For additional media coverage of the event, click here.

Dana White Talks Twitter on Late Night

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Tuesday night, UFC President Dana White was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Twitter was a natural topic of conversation between these two top tweeters. Dana described his recent Twitter Tag stunt in Montreal and shared his thoughts on how social media is a perfect tool for connecting with fans directly. How does the President of the fastest growing sport quantify the value of Twitter? Watch the whole interview here.

UFC President Reaches 1 Million Followers on Twitter

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Tuesday night, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White officially crossed the 1 million follower threshold on Twitter. But how? And with what strategy? More importantly, so what?

Although social networks have millions of users, in some cases hundreds of millions of users, there are actually less than 220 individuals or brands on Twitter who have ever passed the 1 million follower mark. And of those brands and individuals, few if any are Presidents of organizations–not to mention sports organizations.

Even fewer have the degree of two-way communication that Dana has with his followers. Communication that includes breaking news and rewarding followers in a personal way with everything from event tickets to autographed items. Communication that entails responding to followers–even if that means being blunt.

And that’s where strategy steps in. Through Twitter, Dana uniquely humanizes the UFC brand. Sure, a million followers are great but what’s the bigger picture? Dana White and the UFC brand now have a combined, tight-knit community of 1.3 million followers that not only disseminates news, but often dictates trending topics. The UFC’s social media efforts demonstrate that they listen to fans, engage with fans and deliver valuable information where, when and how fans want to receive it. The entire organization understands the value of this new form of communication. That’s pretty powerful.

Social Media Sells Product & Generates 300% Increase

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As we’re all gearing down from last-minute, overnight-shipping, how-do-I-wrap-a-basketball frenzy, it’s good to reflect on exactly how some of our favorite gifts came to us. No, not by sleigh, but e-commerce. Social media drove online sales up 300% for one dR client.

In the last few months surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas, we collaborated with our clients who sell products and merchandise online about how to utilize their preexisting social media presence and relationships to direct new and existing consumers to their online stores.

Discount Tire was one of these clients. After leaking promo codes and directing consumers to offers via Facebook and Twitter, Discount Tire experienced substantial results in terms of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, over-indexing from years prior.

But even if your brand isn’t in the business of exclusively selling retail products, perhaps e-commerce is a portion of your overall business. Take the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for example. The UFC and UFCStore.com needed initiatives that would inform consumers that they could still order gifts in time for Christmas, as well as direct them to their online property–free of off-tone, sales gimmicks. Enter Dana White. UFC President Dana White and UFC personnel selected a handful of their favorite apparel items, both male and female, from the UFC Store and shared them with their online network. Dana White posted his favorite hooded sweatshirt to nearly 1 million followers on Twitter, as well as his Facebook page. It was a personal touch that combined e-commerce and social media for astounding results.

The same year-to-year increase in sales were seen for the White Sox, who employed not an official White Sox account, but the social media channels of mascot Southpaw and Vice President of Communications Scott Reifert, encouraging fans to consider buying White Sox merchandise for their friends and family.

dR Clients Among Twitter’s Top Discussed

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Since their addition to Twitter, trending topics have provided powerful insight into what’s being said not only domestically–but internationally.

So when Twitter released their list of most discussed topics of 2009 on their blog Tuesday, the list not only reflected 12 months of conversation on Twitter, but the year’s most talked-about events. Events such UFC 100 and brands such as the Cavs–two clients that Digital Royalty works with.

You can view the full list of most discussed topics of 2009 on Mashable, where Twitter divided the comprehensive list of topic into subcategories such as news, people, movies, TV shows, technology, sports and hashtags.