Saturday, 12 November 2011

My first Social Media disaster

This week, I was lucky enough to be involved in my first social media shit storm.

Why lucky?

Well, it was brilliant because I actually felt like I was in the middle of something that many so-called social media experts claim to be so adept at avoiding.

I won't go into specifics, it's not really fair on anybody involved, but it's safe to say that, as expected, once I found out that a Facebook post of ours had gone viral, the first feeling that I had was one of fear, panic, frustration, and then finally EXCITEMENT.


Because it is a chance to turn a bad situation around. 

This is why you got into this job. It's not just to build neat apps, it's not to make pretty landing pages. It's crisis management, baby, and you simply have to be the best at riding it out.

You can write a community policy, you can have as many social meetings as you like, you can have all of the snazzy whistles and bells surrounding you and making your job as easy as possible.

But in social media, all of that preparation, education and advice can go up in smoke in the most spectacular way by somebody choosing to post something to a page that is at best questionable, and at the worst offensive to people.

Not reacting to it can wreck all of the blood, sweat and tears that you have put into a brand, TV station, radio station, clothing line.

You have to react quickly, and if you have upset people, you must apologise straight away.

And let me tell you something - you may remain calm, but people DO shit themselves. Try your best not to. Wear a nappy, or something.

Some people will tell you within the company - possibly people that don't see the benefits of what you are trying to do, or people who don't see what the fuss is about.

The one thing I would say to that is: Listen to them, and then be prepared to be honest, and disagree.

You have case studies of social media mistakes coming out of the ying yang - from Kenneth Cole to United Airlines...

You are the person they hired to put a tricky situation right. You deal with the pace and emotional flux that permeate Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Google+ over the course of a day. You are wired into a situation room that only has one entrance, and one exit - and the public are waiting at the exit.

What do you say to them if you have upset them?

You say sorry. And if you are a decent person, you mean it.

And we meant it.


  1. I think Rick Perry recently showed us that the best way to deal with a disaster is to be big enough to laugh at yourself. I have a feeling that a lot of companies are trying to purposefully engineer social media disasters to try and get some buzz. More boring "professional" companies are still scared of social media despite dipping their toes in these waters, but a lot of smaller companies understand that there's a lot of tricks to getting some attention. I'd bet that a decent percentage of videos that go viral are engineered to do so. Everything from using one of the services at BuyFacebookFansReviews to setting up a fake social media disaster are what a lot of companies try and do. I think that despite the potential for disasters on Twitter (posting the wrong thing to the wrong account for example) the advantages definitely outweigh the marginal risks of messing some stuff up.

  2. Ahh wish I could hear more details of your situation, but understand the need for privacy. I used to work for an seo firm and was surprised by the lack of crisis management planning that they did. There basically was none. The best PR managers handle situation on the fly, but you at least need to know your avenues for apology and an idea of what actions will follow. I mean after the JCPenney disaster you would think companies would plan for it?