The first in a two-part series examining the contrasting fortunes of those who embrace Twitter in a crisis, vs those who hold it at arms length – Part 1: Organisations with an existing Twitter presence
A couple of years ago, discourse surrounding corporate engagement with social media was of the opinion that, if you had made the decision to interact there was not necessarily the expectation for you to respond using Twitter during a crisis. Whilst in theory this may still be true, there have been a multitude of examples that have proved that this argument is becoming increasingly invalid and actually, using Twitter can aid your response.
These days, social media is second nature to many and is often one’s first port of call if they have an opinion they wish to express. And next time, it may be about you. What’s more, a social media storm is no longer confined to the digital sphere: if it’s causing a stir in the Twittersphere, then you can be sure that somewhere a journalist will being putting it into print. Tweets may be ephemeral, but the spin-off blog posts and coverage in traditional media can dominate Google search results and news stands alike.
Why wait? You’ll only cause yourself a crisis.
A notable example of an organisation letting an incident escalate, was when Joanna Jones took on British airline Easyjet. The blind passenger was refused permission to board her flight because she was unable to produce the necessary documentation to prove that her guide dog, Orla, was in fact a guide dog.
@joannajones1 promptly turned to Twitter:
Her post was rapidly retweeted, and generated outrage in the Twittersphere. Despite the fact that Easyjet had been following Civil Aviation Authority procedures, their lack of communication and social media engagement created a crisis. The press shortly picked up the story and Easyjet was slammed with allegations of discrimination against the disabled.
Engage or be damned.
Easyjet worsened the situation by initially ignoring it.. Instead, they replied with too little, too late, unintentionally promoting the hashtag #worstapology.
How the pros do it
In complete contrast, during their two-day network outage, O2 managed to create multiple positive news pieces, blogs and tweets despite the fact that at the end of the first day, they were in the midst of a PR nightmare.
O2 dealt with the incident not by following the usual corporate holding line “we apologise for this temporary disruption to our service, we are in the process of rectifying the situation” but instead, they responded to all tweets (even the rude ones) in an open and humorous manner. During the outage, O2’s Twitter followers increased from an average of 155 per day to 13,500 per day and, sensibly, O2 seized the opportunity for some publicity. The O2 social media team managed to turn a deluge of aggressive, angry tweets into a celebratory outpouring for their response. Here are some of the best:
So, how can you manage a social media crisis effectively?
- Early detection: set up a monitoring tool or team to notify you if you’re being talked about. Detecting a crisis in-the-making will, in some cases, provide you with an opportunity to stop the incident becoming an issue
- Response Strategy: Have a plan! Ensure that all of your essential players are well trained – they should know what to do, who to talk to and when to do it
- For goodness sake, communicate! Regain control of the situation. Even if there are legal implications, still make sure to say you are aware of the situation and will provide a statement where possible, direct interested parties towards the appropriate websites, FAQ pages etc.
- Seize the opportunity: Showcase your response and potentially gain more loyal advocates than you had beforehand. Where possible respond to questions and provide useful information on an individual basis. This may also reduce incoming traffic to your helpdesks, helping you resource the incident
And, definitely DO NOT:
- Ignore the situation and hope it disappears
- Continue posting messages as if nothing has happened
- Delete comments (unless they directly violate your social media policy)
- Be dishonest