THERE is no news like bad news.
And bad news on social media is even more dramatic. Sensational commentaries and opinions are often mixed with fact and truth.
In the confusion, negative sentiments and comments are often amplified repeatedly on social media.
As public panic gains momentum and spreads rapidly — due to the pace at which social media flows — it is a huge challenge for organisations making the news to keep their heads above water.
Many panic like Chicken Little — thinking that the sky is going to fall down on them.
Even the most experienced of marketers struggle to remain calm and take charge of the situation.
While an immediate knee-jerk reaction and response is instinctive, the consequence of not truly analysing and assessing the situation is that organisations eventually spend a huge amount of effort over-managing anything that appears to be a social media crisis.
So how do organisations and their marketing departments or media representatives identify a real social media crisis brewing so that they can use their limited resources effectively?
When an incident appears on social media, organisations can identify if it is a true crisis if it relates to three considerations below:
1 Is there a risk to consumer health?
Reported risks to the well-being of consumers are a serious matter.
Such news often spreads like wildfire on social media as the general mentality is to be safe than sorry.
Consumers will immediately shy away from the product or service even before a thorough investigation can be conducted to verify the situation.
For example, should there be any reported cases of food poisoning, the affected brand will usually suffer an immediate drop in sales as no one wants to risk being the next victim.
Concerned consumers will usually share these “public service announcements” with their contacts — mainly friends and loved ones — on social media like Facebook and Twitter.
2 Is there a risk to consumer confidence?
Reported inconsistencies of brand promises can drive consumers away, and in the direction of a competitor.
This usually happens when multiple or influential sources on social media repeatedly point out inconsistencies in a brand’s claims or promises.
Suppose a rumour surfaced on social media that a well-known brand was overcharging all its customers.
Many people are saying the same thing, although they do not justify their claims.
Other people who chance upon this rumour within their social media networks will assume it as truth due to the “confirmation” of various sources reinforcing the same thing.
Since verifying the truth of the rumours is too troublesome a task, they are likely to switch to alternative brands as they don’t want to be “cheated” also.
3 Is there a risk of escalation and hijack?
Coordinated malicious attacks on a brand or organisation can happen on social media.
A motivated group can easily create situations to discredit a brand. At times, they can hijack the situation and even steal the brand’s identity. This further escalates an already volatile situation.
Imagine that a brand has just released a corporate video on YouTube. Following this, a user downloads it and tweaks the intended message and creates a spoof almost identical to the original. The spoof is so believable that one might mistake it to be from the brand.
As the brand promotes the original video, the spoof (with its doctored message and agenda) gets even more momentum, and the key brand message ends up being hijacked.
Manage the situation calmly
Instead of spreading limited resources across every negative activity on social media, it is more prudent to accurately identify if a social media incident is truly a crisis.
If there is a hint of any of the above risks, concentrated efforts and resources can be confidently committed to managing the situation and dealing with it effectively.
Leave the panicking to the Chicken Littles.
Article by Ryan Lim. He has 15 years’ experience in digital marketing and currently heads a consulting team providing social media consultancy and solutions for Fortune 500 companies. For more information, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.blugrapes.com