The trouble with social media is… (part 2)

In part two of our series on fighting through the confusion that social-all-around-us causes, we take a look at crisis and issues handling, and how this world has been turned on its head thanks to always on (and potentially uninformed) chatter, and the most frequently asked questions we come across.

And there is no sector that has had to sit up and take notice of social as a shaper of public opinion more than food and drink. Just check the horsemeat conversation flow on Twitter months after the story hit and it’s clear why some brand reputations still hang low as a result.

The biggest question therefore tends to be ‘how can I keep on top of social for my business when it is so unpredictable and personal?’: the pithiest response if you are not doing it already is that you need to put listening at the heart of what you do. Digital alerts for key words; sentiment and tone analysis where alarm bells go off if your usual ratings waver dramatically towards the negative; a broad set of listening parameters on issues that just might affect your business; and an automated system that does this for you of course.

Check out CORE: Crisis Organisation & Reputation as an example for what we mean here. When issues become more prevalent, then you absolutely positively have to have the right processes in place to help with your “new job”.

And welcome to that new role with “how do I handle a social media led crisis?” Crisis mode no longer exists as an occasional role, but it has to be a constant. ‘Wartime’ listening and handling is too little too late if you haven’t been preparing, training, refreshing and reviewing in ‘peacetime’ with all those in your team who can play a part in handling the issue. Real time developments will run away with you if you don’t’ accept this major shift. Hope is not a strategy to put your faith in. The better prepared you are the better you will be able to respond in the same channels in which the crisis lives.

“So do I engage with social media fire starters and critics?” Know your audience here (and if you are listening you will see and understand the critics that carry weight and credibility) and you can tell where dialogue might work. If this is where the debate is going on, this is at least partially where you should play too. Be genuine. Real. Honest. Be humble if appropriate. And be prepared to have a conversation. Good ones will be shared as much as bad news might be.

So if you haven’t got a crisis team that is social media literate, or the right tools in place to help you take control when (sadly not ‘if’ ) bad things happen now might be the time to revisit that.

The third part of this short series on social media challenges is all about what’s coming next…