Going through a social media crisis? Try over-communicating

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In spite of going “social” and the amount of networking tools, gadgets and countless hours of employee training available, there is never a lack of problems which can be attributed to communication. More often than not, it is due to lack of communication and the quality of the message.

Since the time information management came to be the heart of most organizations’ structure, effective communication has become vital. In the last few years, social media has taken up a major chunk of the responsibility for communication, with many organizations using it as a medium to connect with their customers. In spite of the potentially embarrassing issues that can occur when social media is used iresponsibly, organizations still use tools such as Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook to reach out to their customers.

Social networks give organizations and corporates a human face to reach out to. The interactions in the form of status messages, photos and videos constantly remind the customer or fan/follower about the brand, product or service along with any promotions.

While social networks have reaped benefits for most organizations, some still rely on what is now primitive – email communications and phone calls from a sales representative. Irrespective of the medium, it is the human element which is driving this connection.

But when there is a moment of crisis, the very same channels used for networking stop acting human and blackout. It could be a crisis in the service, a stock debacle or in Instagram’s case, a policy change gone terribly wrong. It is during these tough times that customers, partners and investors needs to be comforted and assured that the brand which they became fans of and followed has not broken their trust.

During these tough times, it is up to the very same team who posted daily updates, mails and calls to ensure that their fans are rapidly made aware of the problems and the efforts they are putting in to resolve them. Not all problems have a quick fix and customers can understand that, but network silence till that point could have adverse effects. Don’t just tell them when the problem is fixed — tell them that you’re fixing it.

Learning the hard way

These communications lessons are not just for the organizations who behave like humans on social media, but also for individuals themselves. Over-communication as a rule was something I personally learnt the hard way. Daily or weekly communications were a rule for long projects with multiple stakeholders. But on a slow-moving project, with little or no change, communication is not only a pain but a matter of embarrassment.

The thought of giving the same update over and over in consecutive meetings made me cringe and cancelling update meetings became a norm. This seemed to work well for me since I needed to update only during the big wins or major issues, but unfortunately that was not to be.

A decrease in the level of communication filled the stakeholders’ mind with doubt and apprehension. It’s the same kind of doubt a customer or fan feels when an organization decides to go quiet on social media with no explanation. As expected, I was summoned for a call to understand what was going on and what we were hiding.

Long story short, I had lost the trust of my stakeholders and it would require a lot of effort to get it back. Much more than the effort it would have taken to constantly communicate minor updates, even if there weren’t any major changes.

Since then, over-communication has worked like a charm. But it is essential we understand the medium the receiver is comfortable with. Nobody likes being spammed in their mailbox. A regular, quick and precise post or tweet would suffice in such cases and keep them aware of progress when it matters to them the most.


This article by Abhijith Jayakumar originally appeared on Trak.in, a Burn Media publishing partner.

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  • http://twitter.com/DavidGrahamSA David Graham

    I support the over communication approach, as long as it is targetted, high quality, relevant content and it is not repetitive. What I do not agree with is email and telephones being referred to as primitive. You will be very surprised how many senior managers and business executives I know that still prefer these communication channels. Ignore them at your peril ;) Great article, thank you.

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