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5 Tips to Survive a Social Media Crisis

June 16, 2014 By Joe Keenan
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Social media is a valuable (and often free) tool for retailers to broadcast their marketing messages to customers and prospects. However, social media is a double-edged sword. The medium also provides customers a forum to broadcast their feelings about brands — and a lot of times they're not professing their love. Even the most beloved of companies will at some point in time either screw up themselves on social media or be the target of an angry customer. It's how a company deals with those types of situations that can help protect their brand, and in some instances turn a negative into a positive. 

In a session last week at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago, Diana Adair, director of communications at custom products retailer Zazzle, a company that's no stranger to crises, offered her top tips for surviving — and avoiding altogether — a social media crisis:

1. Don't create the crisis yourself. The easiest way to do this? Avoid any sad topics (e.g., death, politics), said Adair. She cited an insensitive tweet from Klout about Martin Luther King's death as a brand that violated this rule. 

2. Do get personal. Take the time to create a company social media policy, and include it in your employee handbook. It's even good for your employees to be paranoid of what they're putting on social media — both company pages and their personal pages, Adair said. Monitor your employees’ activity on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. to ensure they're not doing anything to put your brand in a negative light, she added. 

3. Let customers vent. You can't please everyone, although it should be your goal as a retailer to try. Don't delete or ignore customers’ posts on your social media accounts. Doing so will only make things worse, Adair cautioned. 

4. A PR crisis can turn into a social media crisis, and vice versa. Reporters are on social media mining for potential stories. Adair spoke from first-hand experience, as Zazzle was the target of such a story this past holiday season. A local reporter noticed a number of Zazzle customers on social media complaining of late or wrong deliveries, so she reached out to customers and reported on their unhappiness with the company. 

5. Prepare messaging in advance. Make sure your legal, public relations and social media teams are all working together on any company statements (e.g., earnings, lawsuits). Less is more, Adair said, advising attendees to take responsibility for their mistakes on social media, but to do so succinctly.


 

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