Thursday, 21 August 2014

Protecting yourself from a social backlash

The first tweet was sent just over eight years ago when creator Jack Dorsey typed up "just setting up my twttr" and it pinged into the history books. Since then the growth of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other lesser known platforms has fundamentally changed the way we process events and read content.

Despite this, the majority of executives are still terrified of social media, and the backlash which happens during a crisis. Many choose to have no part in it, figuring that a visible online presence will make you a sitting target. When Domino’s 2009 YouTube scandal hit, the pizza company didn’t even have a Twitter account set up and they were unable to communicate or even acknowledge their critics properly.

Burying your head in the sand is not an option. Social media isn’t going away, the various platforms may come and go as fickle as fashion, but the internet is here to stay and it's time for corporations to get a handle on how they interact with social media. Monitor your brand properly, be the first to identify a crisis developing and respond fast.

Whether you have a large social media presence or not, you will be discussed and complained about on twitter. During a crisis, Twitter is the breeding ground of unchecked ‘facts’ and misrepresentation which spread like wildfire. Link Twitter to your press statement, allow Twitter users to read the real facts, even if they chose to ignore them. This also leaves your organisation in a much stronger position, in that it can say it has been in dialogue with all its stakeholders including those who vehemently oppose it.

A core part of your crisis plan should be your digital crisis communications plan. Just as the perfectly phrased (and legally cleared) press statement is ready to go for any well prepared company; a perfectly prepared stream of tweets should be poised in order to get the right message out into the blogosphere fast.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t score an own goal for the Twitter trolls. What can go wrong probably will go wrong. Give those haters a hashtag to use and use it they will, effortlessly turning a carefully constructed hashtag into a bashtag, as seen with the #myNYPD. Earlier this year ‘New York’s Finest’ attempted to generate some good publicity by asking the internet to tweet their experiences of their friendly local police department. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot as it turned out, Twitter was flooded with accounts of police brutality and the names of those shot dead by police.

Tom Curtin is the Chief Executive of Curtin and Co, a BCI Partner specialising in crisis communications and reputation management. You can view more blogs my Curtin and Co by visiting their website or by joining their Linked In group.

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