Facebook Attacks: Social Media Crisis Management

Last week I had to manage a social media crisis for a school. Students were using the popular social media site to post and share material that upset other students and staff. Although possibly meant as a bit of fun, the “Hot or Not” page was anonymously taking personal pictures of students and publishing them. The school wanted to deal with this as soon as possible but didn’t appreciate how difficult it can be to get Facebook itself to react.

So instead of keeping quiet about the whole thing and hoping it would go away, I put my best social media crisis management hat on and convinced the school management to let me make a quick video with the help of the school counsellor and Yazan, from the third year.

Drawing on a strategic social media crisis plan that I’d thankfully prepared last year, I zipped around the school and got students and staff to tell me what they thought Facebook was for and what it’s not for.

Managing a Social Media Crisis Takes Preparation

The biggest takeaway for me with managing this crisis was not just how dangerous or unpredictable social media can be for your brand; it was more about the necessity for businesses to have a crisis management strategy and have fire-drilled for a quick response.

As a business you always need to be prepared to handle a social media crisis. In this case, the video was shot in less than half an hour, edited and quickly posted to YouTube and the school’s website and Facebook page. [Read more…]

Martinis and B2B Strategy

When I was a kid there was an advert for Martini that went something like “Any time, any place, any where – That’s Martini”.

I don’t know why I thought of this as I was driving into Stockholm yesterday but out of the darkness of my brain, something prompted me to think of it. At once I realised that this catch phrase should really be the motto of a B2B’s approach to online content marketing.

Any Time

It doesn’t matter what time zone you’re working in. The Net never sleeps. If your business model includes customers from overseas, for example, it’s vital that you are present 24/7.

That’s easier said than done if you’re a small to medium sized business. But one of the best ways that you can introduce yourself to new audiences is through Twitter.

Hootsuite, my favourite Twitter app, enables you to schedule tweets. This is perfect for posting in different time zones and getting your message out there all around the clock.

The only drawback, however, is that you can’t engage and converse if you’re asleep. One of the best things about Twitter is that it’s almost like instant messaging for many people. Especially B2Bs working with customer service.

Personally, I think Twitter isn’t great as a broadcast medium and it goes against the idea of social media if you use it as such; nevertheless, my own data shows that it can be a useful way of driving links to your blog or website “out of hours”. The important thing to remember is that using it in this way is an added extra and not your default approach to using the channel because scheduled posts don’t really help you build personal connections – a must have for effect social media marketing campaigns.

Any Place?

The title is self-evident but the online communications channels might not be so obvious to you, if you’re new to internet marketing.

Here are my top three places I think you should seriously consider being active on – the most significant first!

1. Your own website OR blog
This is the place you own, control and have full responsibility for. As an online marketing and communications tool it’s a vital stopping point for key stakeholders and potential customers.

This is the place where you can share you best stuff; the online content you’ve created that helps, entertains, informs and serves the needs of your online community.

Services like Facebook and Twitter might go the way of the dodo (remember MySpace?), but your website can carry on rolling like the Stones as long as you’re in business.

2. Twitter
140 character tweets are a brilliant way of communicating with your online audience. You can tell them what’s new, important, interesting, funny, and so on. You can engage in short and snappy conversations, monitor for a crisis and respond to problems, complaint and concerns as if you have the best customer service in the business. All from your smart phone.

Although Twitter is a slow burn, it’s worth investing in building a genuinely active presence on this platform. Just imagine: if you tweet an article, and just three of your followers (customers?) re-tweeted that article to their friends, you could reach hundreds of people who weren’t directly following you. Likewise, if just a few of the followers of each of those individuals re-tweeted, your potential would grow exponentially.

No matter what the doom merchants say about Twitter growth stalling I’ve found it to be a very valuable online channel for introducing people to Jontus Media.
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How to Handle Bad Online Publicity

What with the way that information can spread virally on the Net today, your brand is firmly in the hands of the end consumer. Many businesses have already wised up to this, but far too many are taking the ostrich approach: sticking their heads in the sand.

“Customers Hate Us”

Sooner or later it’s going to hit you. All those lovely fluffy customers who’ve been raving about for years will suddenly turn against you. Or at least one or two who have the potential to wreck havoc because they have many online connections via sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Maybe your product will die a death soon after purchase; maybe your customer service rep ticks someone off with a snotty email or support staff make a major cock-up.

In the good old days (i.e. about 10 years ago) these unhappy folks told their friends and neighbors and it didn’t go further. If you were lucky. If you were unlucky they wrote to the local newspaper or tipped off a journalist. Sure, big brands have suffered a media firestorm over the years.

Nowadays small businesses all the way though to major corporations are at risk because anyone can kick start a multi media online firestorm with a solitary tweet or blog post. Just ask Dell. Or Southwest airlines. Or Nestle. Or Dominos pizza.
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Liverpool FC is in a PR Crisis

Livepool FC is a club in crisis. A PR crisis, as well as a managerial crisis.

As anyone knows me they’re very close to my heart, but the events of the last few days have really upset me. Both as a fan, and a professional communications consultant.

As you probably know Liverpool parted with their manager of 6 years, Rafa Benitez, last week by “mutual consent”. Since then the British and European press has been full of speculation about who will take over: Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish, Martin O’Neal, Gus Hiddink.

Twitter has been awash with tweets containing the Liverpool FC hashtags: #lfc and #ynwa. To put it bluntly, the Liverpool fans are desperate to know what’s going to happen. Many are upset that their successful manager, Benitez, was effectively given the can. Others are frustrated at the lack of “genuine” news, fed up with the daily speculation in the press.

Managing a Crisis

As BP have recently shown, even big companies are pretty good at sticking their head in the social media sand and avoiding any real discussion. Liverpool are following suit.

The official Liverpool website kept quiet for a few days about Benitez’s departure – which didn’t surprise me. After the shock died down, they’ve simply been content to report what the British press are reporting about the speculation.

Today there were a few fans commenting on video about the speculation regarding the possible new manager, but there’s no word from the site if Dalglish’s reported interest in the post is true. Neither is there any form of explanation from the owners as to why they chose to dispense with Benitez’s services after so many successful seasons at the club.

For all Liverpool FC’s investment in a fabulously designed official site with excellent video content and reports, and a growing presence on Twitter, they obviously don’t have a clue how to use social media. Or perhaps, they’re choosing not to use social media, letting the fans draw their own conclusions and the media continue to speculate about the identity of the club’s new manager.

What Liverpool Could Do Differently

If I’d been at Liverpool the last week or so I would have made sure there was a video post from Christian Purslow, the club’s managing director, assuring fans that although this had been a difficult decision, both parties felt it was the best way for the club to move forward as soon as the story broke.
[Read more…]

Liverpool FC Are a Brand with a Communications Crisis

Anyone that knows me will tell you that I love two things: my four basset hounds and Liverpool football club. Thankfully the woofs are fine, but Liverpool FC are in an utter mess. Sunday’s defeat to Chelsea condemned us to one of the worst seasons I can remember in a lifetime of following the Reds.

liverpool fc

You'll never walk alone

It that wasn’t bad enough the British and Swedish press have been savaging Rafa Benitez, the club’s manager, left right and centre; it seems that every time my RSS feed updates there’s more speculation that Rafa is going / staying / having a tantrum and that the club is about to implode under the burden of financial debt.

Caught in a Media Firestorm

Following Liverpool fans on Twitter, Facebook, and in various online forums you can see that speculation is mounting about what’s going to happen. Worse than all the rumours is the overriding feeling of frustration at the secrecy and lack of openness coming from the club. Even players like Yossi Benayoun and Lucas Leiva have publicly admitted the players are frustrated at being in the dark.

Following a season of boardroom shenanigans and poor performances on the pitch with practically the same team that finished second in the League just 12 months ago, the club needs to hold its hands up, admit its mistakes and communicate clearly how it expects to turn things around.

The club has one of the most popular football websites on the web, but unfortunately it’s not making use of the web to engage with its fans. The official Liverpool FC website makes no mention of the problems and has the feel of a poor marketing ploy to sell more replica shirts with plenty of glossed pics of fan favourites Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher than placate its anxious fans who’ve stood by club and manager all season.

Frankly, this is a prime example where social media should be used to build bridges and lift the gloom surrounding the club and ultimately the brand.

Imagine Rafa Benitez appearing in a vlog or YouTube video, talking directly to fans, admitting the frustrations of the campaign and outlining where he hopes things will go. A sense of passion and determination could lift spirits, and meet some of the detractors head on.

Even if Rafa leaves the club, as many commentators seem to think, it would be refreshing to see a manager talking directly to the fans about his motives for leaving instead of mediating his position via the media, who level their own commentary and agenda on top of everything they print.
[Read more…]

Online Communications in a Crisis

Did you get disrupted by the Icelandic volcanic ash that grounded the airline industry in Europe for a week? Did it leave you stranded?

crisis management air industry

Were you grounded?

I personally had a couple of meetings cancelled because customers couldn’t get into Stockholm, but thankfully we were able to Skype.

Time to Communicate Differently

With so many people stranded during the Icelandic volcano crisis it was a brilliant reminder that businesses need to have a back-up plan to maintain business communications in a crisis.

Several of the airlines were very active on Twitter and Facebook, providing updates and information, so no doubt they’ll be better prepared for the next crisis having had a real-world opportunity to use social media to communicate with disgruntled, frustrated customers.

Many airlines, though, were silent on Twitter and missed out on providing customers up-to-date information.

Embracing Online Communication

I personally was forced to overcome my dislike of Skype’s video conferencing facility whilst clients were grounded, conducting several meetings and an interview via my MacBook.

I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable using Skype for business and tended to restrict it to personal use. But a week or so of airline chaos and I got more comfortable launching the video app and chatting away.

The key takeaways from an incident like this are:

  1. make sure you have a crisis management plan
  2. ensure you have enough tried and tested online channels to talk to customers or your people in a crisis
  3. fire-drill your crisis management strategy at regular intervals so your team know how to react

[Read more…]

Your CEO Should Participate in Social Media

It doesn’t take long to discover that not that many CEOs actively participate in social media. Just last summer, for example, ÃœBERCEO noted that only two of the Fortune 2009 list of the top 100 CEOs had Twitter accounts!

If your B2B is using social media channels like YouTube, Twitter, Flickr or a business blog, here are some reasons your CEO should be regularly involved:

Participation, Active Involvement

CEOs should not be isolated from customers and potential customers. In fact, your company can seem more in touch with its audience if the CEO actively participates.

Of course, CEOs are, by nature, busy people; however, they should be part of your content marketing strategy. If B2B CEOs are regularly:

  • tweeting
  • writing a CEO blog,
  • appearing regularly on YouTube or
  • a podcasting

your marcom strategy can bring your CEO closer to your audience.

It’s not necessarily about involving them on EVERY channel, but your CEO should be involved somewhere that is clearly marked. For example, one of my clients, Stockholm University, draws attention to the vice chancellor’s blog as part of their social media strategy.

If you regularly receive a lot of discussion about your services on Twitter, get your managing director micro-blogging. From a customers point of view, there’s one thing to make contact with customer services and another to actually connect with the CEO of a company who takes your issues or comments seriously.

Beyond B2B Crisis Management

It’s typical to see the CEO wheeled out onto YouTube or the company blog if a crisis hits. There they are apologizing, assuring customers the matter is being dealt with blah blah blah.
[Read more…]

Case Study: Social Media Crisis Management

If you’re not convinced about Twitter yet or social media sites, you should listen to Shel Holtz’s interview with Christian Gunning, director of Corporate Communications for Boingo, a WiFi service provider in the US.

It’s a brilliant real-life example of why brands need to monitor Twitter – including on the weekend.

What’s it About?

Gunning talks to Shel about how on April 10 Boingo sent a test email out repeatedly to many customers.

crisis management social media

Thankfully Boingo’s social media manager checked into Twitter over the weekend and saw customers tweeting about the email.

The company were able to respond immediately and reached out to customers on a variety of channels including twitter, Facebook and their corporate blog.
[Read more…]

Twitter Critique: How Should You Respond?

I met with Emma and Mimmie to talk about Crisis Management and Twitter. They’re working on a project for Stockholm School of Economics and are interested in the best ways companies can respond to critique on Twitter.

angry clients on twitter

What if he's angry on Twitter?

They showed me some examples of people complaining and asked me about how companies respond and could respond in this kind of situation.

Listen Carefully!

First and foremost you have to actually be listening to what’s being said on Twitter. Otherwise how will you know what’s going on? Whilst many companies have heard of Twitter, it’s hard to get a sense of the precise number actually using it in Sweden. Tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite and Radian6 can help you find out what’s being said by running searches on your keywords.

Don’t Stay Silent

Having spotted that people are talking about your brand, company or business, and noted that they’re saying things you don’t necessarily want them to say, don’t stay silent. Don’t lie low and hope it will all blow over. It’s far better to respond in a positive and friendly manner and show that you’re trying to help.

By engaging positively, others will see you respond to customer concerns and take you more seriously.

twitter crisis management

Wonder if Toyota will respond?

Don’t Go on the Attack

Whatever you don’t don’t go on the offensive and be aggressive. Barking out: “No, we don’t! NO WAY!” is never going to make you look good even if it’s true.

Let’s say you run a web hosting company and someone tweets out a complaint: “YOUR COMPANY sucks! Servers are down AGAIN!”

Seeing this appear in TweetDeck you check with your team and find that everything’s okay.

“Hey, the customer’s probably knocked the cable out of his router or something,” groans Billy in tech support.

After all, you don’t want to ruin your social media reputation.

Be Positive, Be Friendly

So instead of snapping back: “Everything’s fine! It’s probably you” Be nuanced. Be friendly:

“Our servers are up. 100%. Just checked. Any lose cables?”

Take the Discussion Off Twitter

If it’s a serious issue that needs talking through, you or your team need to get the discussion off Twitter.

“Email me your concerns…”
“DM me your number and we’ll call you immediately”

Although you want to be seen to be helpful, Twitter is not the right channel for lengthy discussions between companies and complaining customers. Your followers don’t want to listen to that unless there’s a fix or solution that suits all of them:

e.g. “Our servers will be back in 10 mins. Apologies!”

If you provide excellent customer service in response to what you hear on Twitter, customers will remember this and may even become ambassadors for your brand in the future.

After all, what more could you ask for than having other people chip in to boost your brand online.

E.g. “I’ve ALWAYS had great uptime with SERVERS”

Over to You

So how else should brands respond when someone slams them on Twitter? Of course, every case is different but what strategies do we need to remember?

Image: FlickrCC

Crisis Management Success and Social Media

You should regularly audit your crisis management plan even if it’s unlikely your business will suffer the scale of PR crisis that the likes of Dominos, Toyota and Nestlé have recently had to deal with.

I regularly talk about needing to monitor online communications channels to see what other people are saying about you. But monitoring is simply not enough. You also need to “fire drill” your crisis management plan to make sure your organisation can handle a social media firestorm.

Can you, for example, get a video from your CEO up on YouTube in 2 hours? Or embed it in your Facebook Fan Page, and then tweet it out to all your followers at anytime of the day or night?

And what happens if you haven’t even set up channels for your brand on sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc?

crisis management social media

Are you prepared for a social media fire storm?

Silence won’t handle a crisis

Burying your head in the sand or traditional crisis management procedures that typically rely on written press releases and press statements isn’t going to cut it in an era where customers are increasingly used to interacting with brands online.

When BrandIndex just days after the crisis occurred found that Americans’ perceptions of the pizza outlet’s quality fell from +5 positive to -2.8 positive.
[Read more…]