Companies often think they’re protecting themselves by avoiding investing in a social presence. In fact, they’re leaving themselves as wide open as possible to the risks, without gaining any of the benefits.
Although poor management can turn one complaining customer into a full-blown PR crisis, the very worst social crises are generally caused by a much deeper problem that reaches into the past, before the crisis began. Many companies leave themselves exposed by being reticent in developing their social presence.
Your customers don’t need you to have a Facebook page to express their unfiltered opinions—if they have something to say, they’ll find a public forum to express it online. You can’t hide. When companies properly invest in social strategy, content, and moderation, they have an established voice, cultural context, and relationship with customers online. They have a clear, data-driven picture of who their customers are and where they can be reached. They are fluent in the tools and channels used to communicate in social—for example, they would be readily able to create and distribute an effective mea culpa message on the fly.
And most important, they have real, live brand representatives, who have cultivated relationships with customer ambassadors. Think of those ambassadors as your brand’s volunteer bodyguards—those customers and industry folks who will support and defend the brand, or at least give it the benefit of the doubt.
Nothing is more important to the lasting success of a brand than trust, and you can’t build it during the heat of a crisis flashpoint. You don’t first make friends in the middle of a crisis. You have to build those relationships ahead of time—and yes, building relationships in real-time, fully leveraging the dynamic, spontaneous, and personal nature of the medium does expose a brand to some new risks. But experience, preparation, and the trust of customers are your best protection. Listen, respect their concerns, and resist the urge to delete first and ask questions later.
This is an adapted excerpt from The CMO’s Social Media Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide for Leading Marketing Teams in the Social Media World, by Peter Friedman, the CEO of LiveWorld. To read more, buy the hardback or ebook via Amazon or any online bookseller.