Preparing Your Brand For Social Media

You may have spent many months preparing your brand’s social media campaign, making sure you have the right people in place, a strategy that is going to knock your competitor’s socks off and success monitoring that will encourage the rest of your business to see social media as one of your top performing revenue drivers, but does that mean that your brand is truly prepared for social media?

Unfortunately, the best-laid plans aren’t guaranteed to go the way you might expect! In social media, possibly more than in any other marketing medium, when things go wrong, it can quickly spiral into a brand reputation management tornado, where it would otherwise have been barely more than a storm in a teacup.

Examples abound of brands that, with all the best planning in the world, have had social media crises with far-reaching effects. Often stemming from a misplaced tweet (as happened recently with Chrysler and last year when Vodafone, the U.K. mobile service provider, managed to tweet a homophobic remark) or through an unexpected backlash to a service or social media approach.

However there are things you can put into place to help protect your brand should the worst happen. Things happen fast in social media, so being prepared is key, because when bad sentiment spreads quickly, you need to be ready with a response the second a poor reaction starts.

Here are three things you need to have in place, to help ensure your brand can effectively tackle whatever the social media critics may throw at you.

  1. Have an emergency channel to your PR team
  2. Whether or not your PR team is driving your social media strategy, there is no denying that PR has a distinct advantage over the newer breed of social media specialists. PR specialists have been

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    dealing with and preventing reputation management crises for a long time. They know how to respond to negative press quickly and effectively, and this is a skill you need to make sure you can tap into at a moments notice.

    Unlike traditional PR, a crisis isn’t going to brew over a matter of days. If you find at 5.15 p.m. on a Friday night that there has been a hiccup in your social media strategy, you need your PR team to have a response ready for you to tweet, blog or update within 5 to 10 minutes. Before this happens, make sure your PR team is well briefed on this requirement, discuss with them how to handle social media problems before they arise, and you can rest a little easier knowing you have the right people ready to act as soon as action is needed.

  3. Create a customer service referral channel
  4. I once spoke to a large brand, who shall rename nameless, who after opening a Facebook page and Twitter account, found themselves swamped with complaints. When they tried to refer these

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    complaints to their customer service team, they were told that, as the volume of offline complaints hadn’t reduced, and as customer service had not been consulted prior to the campaign starting, they would not deal with any of the complaints that came through online channels. The marketing team were left to find their own way through the mire of issues, and ultimately were left spending 40 percent of their time being online customer service representatives.

    Make sure that you work with your customer service team to create a referral process, and that all members of your team know how different types of issues need to be dealt with. Half the battle of responding to customer complaints is doing it efficiently and letting the customer know that you know what you’re doing. Plan ahead and you could turn a complaint into a customer advocate for life.

  5. Break out your inner pessimist
  6. Do you have one of those people within your organization who always sees the negative in any situation and does their best to see the problems in any idea? These brand terrorists are most manager’s worst

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    nightmare, but they do have a use. Bring your own brand terrorist in to brainstorm all the ways your social media campaign could go wrong. If you’re lucky enough not to have one of these individuals close at hand, then take the opportunity to let your inner pessimist out for a while.

    Make a list of all of the worst things that could possibly happen to your brand online, from tweets that go wrong, to accusations of copyright theft and server hacking. Once you have your list of all of the terrible things that could happen, you’re in a position to work out how you would deal with them, what resources you might need and how they could be prevented. This is a hugely empowering exercise because it will help you to make sure you have all of the tools in place and having created solutions to all of your worst nightmares, you will find that you are able to calmly and confidently deal with anything that social media might throw your way, if only to realize that it’s never likely to be as terrible as what you were able to dream up.


Sarah Carling is co-founder and director of operations at online marketing firm Obsidian Edge. Read Sarah Carling’s full PubCon speaker biography here.