Social media marketing is on a roll these days. With more than 3 billion users globally, social media platforms offer a tremendous marketing potential, which is great because your brand message can reach customers all around the world.
But, with great power comes great responsibility.
A single click or an inappropriate hashtag can wreak havoc of gigantic proportions on your brand reputation by causing a well-publicized and exposed social media blunder. Still, many big, respectable brands are no strangers to such unpleasant (and sometimes pretty funny) situations.
So, should something like that happen to you, it’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the world and that there are ways to fix things and save your face.
Assess the Mess
It’s crucial to deal with such a crisis quickly and proactively, but not before you assess the damage and the impact it has had on your audience. So, before you do anything, make sure to identify the extent of the issue, whether it has been localized or is still in progress, as well as what actions, if any, have been taken. After you’ve collected all the information you can plan your response. This means that sometimes you’ll have to respond to your followers individually and be prepared for an angry backlash. Don’t forget to monitor your hashtags, the mentions of your brand, as well as brand keywords, because not everyone will reach out directly to your official channel to have their say about the incident.
Social media never sleeps and news spreads like wildfire, which is why you can’t weigh your options and plan your actions for days. Even a couple of hours seems like an eternity, especially on Twitter, as this channel is extremely fast-paced. If you procrastinate, your customers will be under the impression that you either have no idea that there’s an issue or, even worse, that you don’t care. In any case, you risk your reputation, so make sure to issue a general statement acknowledging that you’re aware of the problem, say that you’re sorry, and promise that you’ll look into the matter.
Back in 2014, Rita Ora tweeted that she would publish her new music if she got 100K retweets. But as even the best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, the pop star only got 2,000 retweets. The proposal was soon deleted, and the singer claimed that someone hacked her Twitter and threatened to leak her new songs. But, the microblogging community was skeptical of this and responded with a series of mocking tweets. The moral of the story is that sincerity is the best policy. Admitting your mistake can be very unpleasant, but at the same time, it’s the best thing you can do. Apologize to your audience and the general public and insist that you’ll do everything in your power to rectify the situation. Such an approach will also help you strengthen the emotional bonds with your audience as well as humanize your brand and make it less cold and faceless, because don’t forget that to err is human.
Handle Negative Feedback
77% of Twitter users feel more positive about a brand if their tweet is responded to. You have to be ready to face negative feedback, which means that ignoring it isn’t an option. Don’t even think about turning a deaf ear and waiting for sharp and nasty comments to die down. Quite the opposite – this one-sided communication will additionally enrage your audience and in no time you’ll experience a snowball effect. Instead of that, try to remain calm and deal with this avalanche of negative feedback transparently, and if necessary, reply to your customers individually. GM used this tactic and managed to turn it into positive PR, as the company took to social media and publicly answered questions on Facebook and Twitter after a recall of 1.6 million vehicles in 2014. Every individual bad comment and complaint was individually addressed and possible solutions were discussed. On the other hand, all this applies only to relevant messages. Tread very carefully and don’t get too involved in the game of trolls because you can’t win that one.
Identify Your Allies
It’s clear that you need all the help you can get in order to minimize the damage to your reputation. So, it’s a good idea to contact your biggest supporters and customers privately and share the news in person. This will re-establish the sense of trust and loyalty, and you can even expect they’ll offer valuable advice on how to handle the crisis. In some cases, your partners might even decide to step up and publicly support you, particularly if you’ve spent a lot of time and energy on building these relationships, so there’s no reason to be afraid to reach out and ask for a helping hand when you most need it. If need be, you can also reach out to someone who specializes in social media marketing campaigns, and ask for advice on how to handle the situation. Don’t underestimate the loyalty of your social media following too. You can use a poll to ask them what they think you should do in order to make up for your mistake and minimize the impact it has had on them. Compensating your customers is the least you can do, so it absolutely makes sense to offer them discounts and freebies.
McDonald’s accidental tweet “Black Friday –Need copy and link” in 2017 turned into a clever ad for their coffee, as the fast-food company followed up with “When you tweet before your first cup of McCafé…Nothing comes before coffee.” After you apologize to your customers and compensate them if necessary, it’s time to move on.
McDonald’s has had its fair share of social media blunders, and yet the company is still thriving, even after the infamous tweet in which President Trump was trashed (the company claimed that the account was hacked), as well as after the #McDstories hashtag, which was launched as a way to share positive experiences about the brand spiraled out of control and garnered tons of negative stories and comments. The trick is to learn from your mistakes and make sure that you set up a system for preventing such incidents in the future. The very same fast-paced nature of social media which initially puts you in an awkward situation is also a blessing in disguise– your flub will soon be buried in a whole slew of fresh content and updates.
No matter how bad things may seem at first, it’s critical not to allow a single social media faux pas to define your brand. Take full responsibility and pay your dues, but don’t dwell on the past for too long.