I was recently contacted by Campaign Asia for some thoughts on online crises, social monitoring and how brands should react. The Q&A follows. I'll revert with a link to the story when it runs. Happy reading!
Do brands need to be hypervigilant?
I feel brands need to be more vigilant than in the past, but I don’t think they need to be hyper-sensitive. A social monitoring program is hopefully now just part of the cost of doing business, and this should certainly be used to identify both negative and positive opportunities for response or proactive commentary.
How can they guard against the worst offenses?
Establish a strong social monitoring program, be clear on who is influential conversation around their brands and topics of interest, establish relationships with brand advocates, and have a comprehensive strategy in place to deal with potential crises or issues.
But do they want to be completely inoffensive? Is this a good comms strategy?
If you mean do brands want to be completely inoffensive, then I think ‘vanilla is a dangerous strategy. They need to have the audacity to have an opinion, a brand ‘voice’ and personality. I’d err away from deliberately offensive, unless you’re aiming to shock (like Burger King in Singapore in 2010) and even then it should be used with a great degree of caution. Don’t be afraid to express a controversial opinion, but do so only in keeping with the established brand personality, otherwise you’ll be at odds with yourself.
What have brands who have offended in the past learnt from their mistakes? (could you references some cases that have been in the public domain?
The classic example is Dell, who after suffering the well-publicized ‘Dell hell’ blog posts, have created one of the world’s best social customer strategies. More recently, US Airways suffered major embarrassment with a NSFW response to a customer tweet, but has subsequently been very responsive to twitter issues and customer comments.
Sometimes brands have done nothing wrong (Cadbury Malaysia / Jollibee Singapore) and yet they're a target. What can you do when this situation arises?
Hashtags are frequently the source of twitter issues. While campaigns such as McDonald’s #mcdstories or the New York Police Department’s #myNYPD started with the best intentions, brands have to realize they don’t own hashtags – and that internet trolls are quick to pounce. Before running any social media program, best to run it through a filter to ensure any possible mischief is planned for (and communicated internally as a possible outcome). When the situation arises, best to be contrite, reinforce the intentions of the program, hope brand advocates come to your aid, and, if all else fails, fall on your sword and kill the program.
If you can’t guard against everything, what should you do?
If this is the mindset, then don’t use social channels. Yes, things can go wrong. Certainly, plan for eventualities. But don’t use the fear of problems stop your brand connecting with its most important audiences through social channels.