Posted by : Amitha Amarasinghe Friday, April 10, 2015

We all can agree on the fact that Social Media is not like traditional media, but when it comes to sensitive conversations about a brand on Social Media we quickly tend to forget this truth. Moment you see someone talks negatively about a brand, the first question most managers ask is “can we do something to stop this guy?”

“Do something” is a very popular way of briefing agencies, especially in the field of Social Media Marketing. Just like a wife goes out of her mind when she sees a cockroach in the kitchen and shout at the husband “do something!”, the client goes all crazy when they see these negative (sarcastic) posts appearing on social media, and shout at the agency “do something!”. I’ve seen on many occasions, this lack of patience to understand a situation before responding, turns harmless situations into fearful crisis’ for a brand.
Sometimes, "doing nothing" can be a legit recommended action by a social media agency. But clients always wonder ‘why I should pay an agency to get a recommendation to do nothing?’ What they don't see is, behind that recommended action to ‘do nothing’; a lot of experience and expertise goes into action. The social media manager at the agency would have studied similar situations world over before he came to this recommendation. He would have identified common patterns of how average situations turns into a crisis. A professional social media manager knows how to evaluate a situation in terms of message threat and messenger influence and depending on the big picture to first decide whether to respond to the situation or not. It’s insane to think that a brand must ‘respond’ to every negative comment which appears on Twitter or Facebook.

Going against such recommendations and "doing something" for the self-satisfaction of being in control, can worsen the situation for the brand and what might have been an average situation with no business impact can eventually turned into a total social media crisis.

Most "situations" companies encounter on social media is not crisis situations. Hitting the panic button too early can eventually turns the average situation into a full scale crisis. First step of managing a social media crisis is to separate actual business impact from personal opinions and decide if it's a crisis or not. When you see negative comments appearing on your social listening feed, ask yourself the following two questions.

1. What impact these comments are having on my sales volumes in the short to medium term?
2. What impact these comments are having on consumer’s trust on my brand in the long term?

If there is no clear evidence that the negative comments are going to suffer your sales in short term or negative impact on brand trust in the long term, you have no crisis to manage. Instead of going emotional and trying to ‘do something’, it’s better to keep quiet and monitor the situation.

One thing all marketers have to keep in mind is, the initial response you give to a situation counts a lot in converting a situation into a crisis. Initial response can be no response at all, depending on the situation. If you are responding, it has to be well thought of for all subsequent consequences and you should have a clear plan for those consequences, a clear idea on who is going to talk on behalf of the brand etc before you respond. I have experienced situations where companies wanted to ‘do something’ about social media negativity without even having proper authority to create social media profiles to represent the brand or with no designated spokes persons on behalf of the brand.

Today we are moving into a more matured landscape in social media usage. Today we have so called ‘millennials’ getting full access (without parental control anymore) to the internet and using social media tools like Twitter, Youtube and Facebook. Some of them tend to act like monkeys with razor blades, so they can go all out and throw all sorts of sarcasm on a brand for no reason. If a brand manager counts such sarcasm as social media crisis situations, they are in definite trouble in the future.

In summary, always keep your (or someone else’s) subjective opinions away from the factual business impact on your brand of social media negativity. After evaluating the facts carefully, decide if it is really a crisis situation or not. If there are signs that the situation is going to turn into a crisis, get the help of professionals and most importantly listen to their professional advise; not the advice of your best college buddy or your hairdresser.

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