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12 Days of Digital – Day 8: What’s your social insurance policy?

If you live in the UK’s midlands or have a particular interest in stationary you may have seen part of last weekend’s rampage against WHSmith, socially or in regional press. Earlier in August there was another social skirmish with Tesco. Blog posts are popping up all over the place looking at handling ‘social media crisis’. These are not the first time, nor will it be the last, a business marvels at the fact their consumers communicate and disagree with what they are doing online. A recent report has suggested that companies could avoid or diminish three-fourths of social media crises with additional resources.

I’d like to spin it another way. Your consumers have always talked about your products and services. Yes social media helps word of mouth spread, but this is a question of whether it is better to be ‘seen and not heard’ rather than the detrimental effect of social networks on society today. Surely to achieve the best possible service it is an added advantage to listen to less than positive conversations. I think it’s an opportunity missed not to prepare for a social media crisis.

There are some key points to aid that preparation:

– Monitor your brand constantly by maintaining consistent communications you will reflect your culture and so your personality in social channels. This will helpfully encourage any dissatisfied customers to come straight to you. In the likely event that not all complaints come tweeting to your door, monitoring enables you to still assist with any problem

– Listen and then act sentiment can be misconstrued online. Understand the context and be assured you are working to your actual goal.

– Don’t delay the most important response is the swiftest response.

– Use the same platform the crisis started on to initially respond but don’t forget, you can always pick up the phone, make it personal, and take a grievance offline.

Decide who should deal with complaints have a clear understanding of what kind of complaints demand senior management involvement or even independent industry influencers to your cause.

At the end of 2009 you may remember that Eurostar had a real crisis of service. Traditional news channels were broadcasting stranded passengers, waiting to hear if they could get home for Christmas. Still a great case study I recommend a read of their then agency We Are Social’s blog from the time. The case study of the situation demonstrates how swiftly social media management can turn from a diabolical consumer situation and daggers drawn to an overwhelming thank you, I appreciate your help.

For extra reading real value into how to deal with a social media crisis can be found in this Ogilvy slideshare. It’s a great reference and highlights the key factors with some great graphics.

WHSmith were swift(ish) to respond. The situation blew up over the weekend when their twitter account wasn’t manned. This begs another question, how do we live with 24/7 consumer demand?

Former BBC producer Kate Pickering has worked in broadcast, innovation and digital media for 14 years. She is Director ofmedia140 delivering events and workshops in the UK, mainland Europe and Australia on the transformation of business using social technologies. A collaborative innovation enthusiast and a firm believer the web is for good as well as play Kate is focused on what’s new and what’s next to better business. She has recently become Innovation Programme Leader at Co-operatives UK. Connect with Kate here.

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