Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tweets in Crisis

From Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown to McDonald's and Kitchen Aid, 2012 was a year filled with negative publicity for public figures and corporations when it came to their social media usage. Most use Twitter as a direct way to communicate with fans and the general public. A simple tweet or two throughout the day to engage with your customers and keep your business buzzing appeals to many organizations. However, this simple 140-character tweet can attract controversy- quickly! For this reason, I believe it is extremely important to create a crisis management plan for social media accounts used by your corporation. 

Here are some of my favorite examples of corporations that need to (or already have, in light of their circumstances) create a crisis management plan for Twitter:

@KitchenAidUSA: "Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! 'She died 3 days b4 he became president???' Wow! #nbcpolitics." - Reportedly, this KitchenAid employee no longer works there. 

@NRA_Rifleman: "Good Morning, shooters! Happy Friday! Weekend plans?" - NRA tweeted this the day after the Aurora shootings, marking the beginning of a series of bad publicity stunts surrounding its opinion on gun violence. 

@Gap: All impacted by Hurricane #Sandy stay safe! We'll be doing lots of online shopping today. How about you?" -  

@Skip_Sullivan: One time I walked into McDonald's and could smell Type 2 Diabetes floating in the air and I threw up. #McDStories." McDonald's attempted to connect with their customers by creating the hashtag: #McDStories. Unfortunately, they received more negative stories, than positive. 

As seen from the previous cases, it is important to create a crisis management plan for all social media accounts used by your company, especially Twitter.

When used correctly, Twitter creates a savvy social media tool that not only reaches your own targeted audience, but also the ability to contact potential customers through retweets and replies, which can quickly accumulate to millions of people around the world. Tweets also appear beyond the Twittersphere as writers, columnists and bloggers write about tweets from corporations and public figures daily, which creates an opportunity to reach an even larger audience. As clever as this communication tool can be, it can also cause huge problems when companies and social media account managers do not critically assess tweets before posting them. When social media is not used correctly, it demonstrates that fact that the social media account managers either do not understand the impact social media has on their image and its publics, or that the corporation allows people to run the accounts who are not diligent enough at their job to represent the corporation on social media. 

While some social media mistakes may be like the aforementioned bad examples, social media does not always have to be negative when dealing with crises. To avoid the backlash of accidental tweets- implement a crisis management plan that will either prevent or handle these types of crises. 

Crisis management plans focused solely on Twitter and any other social media accounts can determine how to prevent, control, and react to crises and bad publicity. The plan should begin with an analysis of what could go wrong and examine the question of how to fix it. Like any other plan, you will start with an objective that will determine the purpose of the medium. 

For example, are you using it to evaluate consumer thoughts, advertise products, or reach new customers? It should also include strategies to determine who will use the accounts and how often. Finally, the tactics will address the steps you will take to implement those strategies. Within these strategies and tactics, your crisis management plan should provide general guidelines for those administering the accounts. These guidelines should include approrpriateness, timeliness, accurarcy and engagement. 

At the end of the day, if you do not understand the impact of social media, hire someone to help you. Most large corporations have a public relations team that can implement a crisis management plan for your social media accounts. Although we cannot always predict how consumers and fans will react to certain tweets, it never hurts to react before the backlash can begin. 

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