By Susan Kim, Staff Writer

Monday March 23, 2015

Thought Leadership on Property & Casualty/Risk & Insurance Management presented by Commercial Insurance Managers.
What happens to your brand when social media turns toxic?
Over one billion people worldwide use at least one form of social media on a daily basis. Most businesses realize that social media is a useful way to build a brand and reach customers where they are—online.
It’s easy to interact with customers via social media if your company has a positive image. But what if one of your employees posts a customer’s private information on Twitter or uploads a video to YouTube of another employee smoking marijuana in the break room? Without the proper crisis response plan in place, your positive brand awareness and goodwill could evaporate. Do you have a crisis response plan?
  1. Be prepared.
The key is being ready before the toxic social media event occurs. Form a social media crisis response team comprised of employees from all departments. Discuss threats to your social media presence, such as a customer having a negative experience with one of your employees or with your product in general.
With potential threats identified, create a crisis response flowchart. The flowchart lets employees know what they can respond to themselves and what might need to be run up the ladder for a more formal corporate response.
The flowchart asks basic YES or NO questions to determine the proper action to take. Benefits of the flowchart include:
  • Ease of implementation. The flowchart should indicate exactly who is in charge of what if a crisis arises in order to get a response out as soon as possible.
  • Consistency. If all employees are following the same plan, your message will have a clear, unified voice.
  • Speed. The flowchart offers a clear way to handle the issue quickly. In addition, set up Google® Alerts or a similar service to keep track of what people are saying about your brand in real-time. That way, you can be on top of a crisis before it turns unpleasant.
  1. Act quickly.
Twenty-four hours in social media time is an eternity. Time is of the essence, and your customers will expect a quick response should you face a social media crisis.
Realize that social media never sleeps—it lives on well after normal business hours. Several members of your crisis response team should keep their eyes on your social media outlets after business hours in case something comes up. Taking too long to respond shows your customers that you’re either not listening or you don’t care, which can lead to more incidents. The longer you wait to respond to issues, the more time people have to tell their friends and spread negative sentiment toward your company.
Using the right medium to respond to a crisis can be a useful line of defense. If the crisis begins as a negative video posted on YouTube, post a video in response. If it begins with a negative comment on your Facebook page, respond there first. If you can contain the problem to one media source, you have a much better chance of limiting the damage.
  1. Tone matters.
Perhaps a useful way to engage your customers is to incorporate a little humor into your social media messages. However, this might not be the best course of action when dealing with a crisis. If done correctly, your tone can ease customers’ minds and help boost the company back into a positive light.
No matter how angry a customer is with your company or its products, do not reply with anger. If a person is intentionally attacking your company, invite them to contact you directly to deal with their issue. If the comment is full of derogatory language or attacks specific employees, delete the comment. However, if the comment is vague and doesn’t attack anyone in particular (i.e., ‘Your company stinks’), deleting it may encourage others to post similar things.
Other tone-related tips include the following:
  • Always be polite and thank customers for their input.
  • Politely correct customers posting inaccurate information, even if it is on another site that you don’t directly control.
  • Be authentic. If you are making an apology, don’t copy and paste the same bland jargon to every comment—customers will see that as being lazy and careless.
  • Humor isn’t always warranted, but it can have a powerful impact to turn your image around. Your customers will realize that people sometimes make mistakes, and a humorous message about how you plan to fix the problem can go a long way.
  1. Follow through.
Just because you have a crisis response plan in place doesn’t mean you’ll be experts when the time comes to execute it. Have quarterly “fire drills” to keep the plan fresh in employees’ minds. The better your employees know the plan, the quicker you can respond.
If a crisis occurs, let customers know you’re taking steps to correct the issue and share your plan. They will appreciate the honesty and you should be in the good graces of your customers again in no time.
Gordon M Mumpower Jr, CPCU, MBA is President of Commercial Insurance Managers Inc, specializing in risk management and transfer of risks to insurance products and services. If you are interested in additional risk management and employee benefit services, call 410-799-2146 or email Gordon at gordon@businsure.com

None of my employees would sue me!