Believe it or not, it’s still fairly common for companies today to avoid using social media. After all, no open online channels of communication means less opportunity for negative consumer feedback. However, now more than ever, it is critical that companies open that previously restricted dialogue in order to stay afloat, especially during a crisis.
Stephen Marino, SVP and North American Director of Digital and Social Media for MLSGROUP, put it best when he said “social media is no longer this shiny object, it’s a living data center.” The best way to proactively address an issue is to be in tune to the data social media has to offer.
As MSLGROUP’s Texas affiliate, Pierpont Communications invited Stephen Marino to the University of Texas last month to be the inaugural speaker of the College of Communications’ Gywn David Lecture Series. Below are some tips Stephen provided on how to best utilize social media during a crisis:
Have a digital influence team to manage social media channels. Once you open these channels of communication, it has to be a two-way conversation. You must have a team of people listening and ready to respond to consumer feedback.
Sit down with attorneys to set strict community guidelines for your channels. Think of your social media site as your party – you make the rules. If people come to your site and choose to not abide by your house rules, you can ask them to leave. While you’re with the attorneys, set up an approval protocol so the digital influence team can quickly respond to consumers via social media. It’s a very timely platform – long approval process will lead to missed opportunities.
Let people be angry. As long as they are abiding by the guidelines, it is crucial that you do not shut them down and trust that the initial anger will mellow out in time. An interesting thing that Stephen pointed out is that your social media community will begin to regulate itself. Loyal Facebook fans or Twitter followers will help monitor the page, policing those that push the limits set by the community guidelines.
Use Twitter for headline generation and to allow the conversation to continue. With a strict limit of only 140 characters per tweet, tweeting an ideal headline with a link to the corresponding story is a great way to provide both reporters and consumers with timely information. Twitter also allows a deep level of engagement in real time. Allow consumers to tweet during a live interview or a press conference and have the digital influence team respond to questions in real time.
Don’t forget about multimedia channels. The bottom line is that the more people interacting with and talking about your company, the higher yourSEO. Sites like YouTube and Flickr not only increase a company’s digital property, they also provide consumers with different platforms to communicate.
Once you know what makes people tick, move quickly! As previously stated, social media provides companies with a living data center. Consumers will provide insight into what they want to hear from your company. Take this feedback and use it to refine key messages.
Keep in mind that the content will never resonate with everyone. Think of your Facebook or Twitter page as a television network – there’s different programming on different nights that appeal to different audiences. No one is going to like all of the programming, and people aren’t going to like all of your messaging, either.
At the end of the day, companies must go where the consumers are. It’s far from ideal to pull a consumer away from his or her heavily frequented platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, to access your company.com. One advantage of establishing social media sites before a crisis is that when an issue pops up, you will already have a built-in base of employees or friends to immediately disseminate your message.