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.
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.
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.