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3 Simple Steps to Extinguishing a Social Media Firestorm

by | May 17, 2012 | Industry News & Trends

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. – Mike Tyson

Don't be aggressive in your approach to social media attacks

The words of the brilliant philosopher, Mike Tyson, ring true for those working in social media. It’s nice to think about what you would do in a rhetorical sense but when a “crisis” actually happens, it’s easier to fall down in the ring and play dead.

Fight or flight. It’s innate. We want to run away and avoid the situation or we become aggressive snarling and growling at that which threatens us. Yet the best way to address a social media gaff involves stepping out of our instinctual response and being deliberate. Most social media crisis can be handled simply in three steps (notice I wrote simply and not easily. There is nothing easy about dealing with disgruntled people with an Internet bullhorn).

1. Investigate. Get to the bottom of the issue quickly. Talk to the decision makers or the folks involved on your end. Think as objectively as possible. This is not the time to find offence with someone merely because “they started it.”

2. Own it. If it’s a flub on your part or a default with your product or service, take responsibility. If it’s not, try to understand where this person (or people) are coming from. Was this just the straw that broke the proverbial back? Has communication been a longstanding issue and this is just how they decide to express their dissatisfaction? You be the judge but do your best to be a fair one.

3. Respond. Your fault, their fault, no one’s fault. Every inquiry deserves a response. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to make it public or private. Note: even if you chose to reach out privately, your response may still end up in a public forum so make sure you do so professionally and as empathetically as possible. You won’t always be able to tell them what they want to hear but make sure you communicate your message in a professional and respectful way.

These three steps should be executed as quickly as possible without compromising your answer or information. The Internet moves at the speed of gossip and if you wait for your next board meeting to fashion an appropriate response, your flub will escalate into a disaster. If your organization has several levels of sign-off needed for every solution, communicate the need (before it is a need) for a quick resolution and let these signers know that once contacted they need to spring into action with all the urgency of the ringing of the bat phone. If you do this before there is an issue you will have established an expectation that all should be able to conform to.

Need more advice on handling a social media crisis? Try the Air Force diagram or watch this AskIdealware video.

How have you dealt with a possible social media disaster?


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