5 Tips for Avoiding a Damaging Social Media Storm

Social media can make or break a business in hours. Somewhere on average of close to 10,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter every second. While 2,300 pictures are uploaded to Instagram every in that same timeframe. Facebook has 20,000 users active at any given second, browsing posts for topics of interest.

66% of all millennials use Facebook. Heck, even 31% of senior citizens in the U.S. are on Facebook and it’s not a far stretch to imagine them spreading their wings to other socialspheres in the coming months and years either (see more Facebook stats here).

This means that if your company is making all the right moves, social media is a customer acquisition (and retention) dream for your brand.

If you’re making the wrong moves or just plain unlucky, you just might end up looking like these two:

Photo Credit: Alan/Flickr

Here are 5 relatively simple-to-implement tips for finding your way through a social media uproar:

1. Actually listen to your customers.

You can hate on the media all you want, for dragging every misstep you’ve ever had out into the public eye, but most of it is nothing but noise. The only thing that matters is what your customers think. And when it comes to the customer, expect them to never give a compliment and always tell you what they’re dissatisfied about. Many a social media storm has started just because a company wasn’t willing to listen to a problem, ignored the customer, and suffered the social hate because of it. Admit your mistakes, thank them for their criticisms as much as you would their praise.

2. Have a damage control strategy.

Damage control shouldn’t be something you dream up after the fact. You need to sit down with your staff and decide how developments that put your company in a bad light are to be handled. Make sure everyone knows how they’re to deal with the media and make it legal with a non-disclosure contract. Evaluate all the potential risks you can and decide their potential outcomes. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. Preventing fires is much easier than fighting a full on blaze!

Firefighter putting out fire
Photo Credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet/Flickr

3. Be Proactive.

Perception is 90% of most social media disasters. A picture taken at the wrong angle can make it look like your CEO is making out with his secretary, when in fact they’re both just having a discrete conversation about something office related. Having a new product line fail on release will make existing customers think you’ve bailed on your standards; and the new ones will think anything you offer is pure junk, period. How you deal with scandals the minute they surface can quickly turn a negative into a positive, if you don’t wait. Be professional, admit you made a mistake. Offer valid reasons, not excuses, and tell the public how you’ll avoid problems in the future. Avoid arguing, being stubbornly defensive, and certainly don’t go looking for scapegoats. Do this and your reputation just may remain intact to keep the doors open another day.

4. Don’t stray from your customer service policies.

It’s important to be flexible, but you don’t want to look desperate or worse, gutless. You have company policies for a reason. Ignoring your customer service policy can open you up to all sorts of social media nightmares. Especially when it comes to trying to “buy a customer off” with freebies, giving them upgrades, or allowing out-of-date product returns when your policy clearly states a specific timeline. Stick to your guns while going above and beyond with your customers. Fight for their business, but don’t come across as a pushover, or nobody will respect you.

5. Never stop SEO’ing your brand.

The first thing someone does when they hear good or bad press about you is to Google or Bing your company name. Even though SEO is no longer the be-all, end-all of Internet marketing and branding that it once was, that still doesn’t mean you should give up on your ranking efforts. And I’m not just talking about your main company site either. Sure, you want to rank for terms that relate to the presale and sale of your products and services and have a nice Wikipedia page as well, if you qualify. These are all standard. You also need to focus on terms that combine your brand with nasty defamatory words like “Company Name + Scam” and “Company Name Rip Off”, etc. Rank these terms on a network of your own and on other influential sites. The better you rank for your company name and services and control the message those sites give about your brand, the less chance a nightmarish tweet has of making it to the top of the search engines where everyone and their grandma can see it.

If you have any words of wisdom for our readers about avoiding damaging social media flareups, leave them down in the comments so everyone can benefit from your knowledge.


Main Image Credit: Alan/Flickr