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Extinguishing a social media fire: what you need to know

When a brand has thousands of followers and likes online, it’s definitely something to be proud of, but what happens if their audience suddenly turns against them on the social web? What are you going to do if you made a mistake online and people start turning against you with negative comments and feedback that is public for everyone to see? Will you be notified when this happens? Will the negative feedback about your brand outweigh the positive sentiment?

Even though this might not happen to you it’s important that you have a process in place to build and safeguard your online reputation. Your digital footprint consist of everything you do online and you need a plan and strategy when a social media fire starts. Bad news online spreads like wildfire and it could take only one update in 140 characters or less that could potential destroy your reputation.

Have a process in place

When it comes to building and maintaining your online reputation and digital footprint, planning is everything. Create a social media policy, guidelines and strategy for your brand that outlines the rules for responsible administration. Appoint a team, social media manager or a department to monitor your brand proactively and react towards any customer service issues. Having a process in place where this team can monitor all the actions taking place regarding your brand on the social web on a daily basis will ensure you are always in the know how of what is going on. If your team is proactive and understands the strategy and process for combating an issue before it gets out of control, you are already a step ahead.

Don’t wait to act

The faster you can respond with a strategic and thoughtful response on handling the issue, the faster you can resolve the issue at hand. If the crisis turns into a snowball then it’s very important that you act quickly. Review the situation and assess the damage because you are not ever going to change policies over complaints. Acknowledge any comments you receive and respect their opinion.

It’s not always possible to have a direct answer for every negative mention or post, but it’s important that your community know you take these issues seriously and strive to improve your service. Be transparent and honest with your response. There’s really no more hiding in the shadow because social media is shining a light on everything and everyone.

Respond with an open door

The worst thing you can do with your community online when a social media fire starts is to make them feel that they are engaged in a one way conversation with no one talking back to them. Always respond to individuals publicly on the social web. If you are only going to respond with private messages (behind closed doors), people won’t see that you are actually working on a solution and that you have acknowledged the complaint or negative mention. Most of the time it’s best to take the conversation offline, but before you do, acknowledge and respond to the person who left the complaint publicly.

It’s important that you understand what your target audience expectations are and you should be prepared to deal with any concerns or problems that could arise. When you respond in the public, everyone will be able to see that the problem was addressed and it also demonstrates that you really care about your customers and that you appreciate their loyalty.

Author | Anton Koekemoer

Anton Koekemoer
I'm your friendly neighbourhood digital marketing specialist. I specialise in helping brands connect with targeted customers by enhancing their online presence through emerging web-based communication channels. I translate business objectives into comprehensive initiatives that focus on humanising brand identity while maximising measurable business results. More