That was a relatively minor slip up compared to a month later, when American Apparel posted a picture of the space shuttle Challenger explosion on their Tumblr. According to their official apology, their social media manager was born after the disaster and was unaware of it.
This doesn’t mean that all of your marketers should receive history and geography lessons. The dozens of other PR disasters that happen on social media every year occur for any number of reasons. What it does mean is that your organization needs a social media policy to prevent PR mistakes and to mitigate the damage if any potentially harmful messages are released.
Preventing Social PR Disasters
The best way to prevent social media blunders is to only allow company messages to come from one person and one social media account. Unfortunately, that’s not the best way to receive any real engagement on your social channels.
Social media messages that are shared by employees reach 561% further than those shared by official company channels.
Using employee social advocacy safely and successfully requires that you and your employees have a clear understanding of what messages are encouraged and which should be avoided.
Build a Strategy and Social Media Policy to Guide Your Employee Advocacy
If you have a social media strategy, share it with your employees. Giving them an understanding of what your social goals and positioning are will show them how their networks can best support the brand. In addition to strategy, a clear social media policy should also define what employees can and cannot do online.
Establish Guidelines for Posting
Avoid sending your employees a 50-page document of Social Media Don’ts. Your guidelines should encourage sharing! Make your guidelines simple and based on common sense. Most of the information will be better communicated through training, but it will be valuable to have an official document in case any incidents occur.
Train Your Employees on Social Media
53% of salespeople say they’d like social media training. Despite this fact, 93% of them have received no formal training from their company.
Look to Dell for an example of an excellent social media training program. Over the past 5 years, Dell’s Social Media and Community University has trained over 15,000 of their employees on social media best practices. The benefits they’ve seen extend to all areas of their business:
- Sales via social media has seen a 69% year-over-year increase.
- With 4,000 customer service cases a week on social media, they hold a 98% first-time resolution rate.
- 89% increase in the number of external hires coming from employee social referrals.
Provide Employees with Social Media Content to Share
Supplying employees with suggested social media content is another way to increase advocacy while also controlling the messages being sent out. You can send out regular post suggestions or for certain salespeople and brand advocates you can post on their behalf through a social media lead generation tool like Socedo. This is particularly valuable for sales reps who need to regularly share messages to leads in a timely and relevant manner.
Responding to Social PR Disasters
No matter how well trained and informed your employees are, eventually a social media crisis will strike your company. However, that doesn’t need to spell disaster for your brand. Many companies have been applauded for how well they handled a PR disaster.
Two companies that prove this fact are DiGiorno and Entenmann’s. Both companies received backlash after unintentionally leveraging trending hashtags that were related to sensitive issues. Entenmann’s tweeted using the #NotGuilty hashtag related to the Casey Anthony murder verdict while DiGiorno used the #WhyIStayed hashtag related to domestic violence.
Entenmann’s responded by avoiding Twitter for years until they had lived down the crisis. On the other side, DiGiorno personally responded to offended Twitter users and went to great lengths to own their mistake.
Because of their response, DiGiorno was able to limit the damage done to their brand and continue to use Twitter as a valuable channel.
Create a Social Media PR Disaster Plan
In addition to your social media policy, you should have a formal plan in place that defines what a social media crisis means to your brand and what actions you will take in the event of one. Some incidents may require personal apologies to every offended customer, like in DiGiorno’s example. Some incidents may require you to put out a press release or issue a formal statement. Understanding what is required in various situations and having the resources in place to respond quickly will greatly reduce the damage a social media PR incident can have on your brand.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
Responding to PR disasters and regular customer complaints in a timely manner requires that you actually know about them. While users reference brands on Twitter all the time, less than 3% directly @mention the brand when they do. Monitoring real-time keywords can help you identify potential disasters the moment they occur so your response can be quick and effective.
Social media PR disasters happen. However, if you create clear guidelines so you and your employees can be authentic and communicate with honesty, you can limit the potential for major incidents and limit the damage they will have on your brand.
This article was originally featured on Duct Tape Marketing Network
Teena Thach is Socedo’s social media and marketing specialist. Socedo is a demand generation system that empowers marketers to discover, engage with and qualify prospects through social media to generate revenue at scale.