Risk management in social media: accept, acknowledge and apologise.

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Social media is viral.

Just have a look at the ice bucket challenge. Thanks to the social media campaign, the ALS Association increased their annual donation from $5mil to over $114mil.[i]

That’s a case of viral gone right.

But what happens when it goes wrong.

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The thing with social media is that as soon as you hit send- it is out there. Even if you remove a tweet or Facebook post, followers have still seen it, some may have even screen shot it and that post can continue to be shared.

Have a look at this incident that occurred on Black Milk Clothing’s Facebook timeline.

blackmilk1_590266After posting this image fans of the brand were outraged. This brand was built on a community of followers who interact on their social media page, and have regular meetups. The brand really sells them a lot more than just clothing. And a lot of these fans were outraged.

They pointed out that this image was in poor taste and went against the Black Milk “commandments”: [i]

COMMANDMENT #1 – YOU SHALL BE EXCELLENT TO ONE ANOTHER

COMMANDMENT #5 – YOU SHALL NOT MAKE CRITICAL COMMENTS ON OTHER WOMEN’S BODIES.

The administrator went on to do something inexplicable. They started replying condescendingly, deleting posts, and then went on to block fans. Keep in mind these fans are also paying customers, many of whom had been there from the start.

It took 24 hours to remove the image and issue and apology. In the process they lost around 10,000 followers and their reputation was forever damaged.

This fiasco really went viral when Huff Post published an article: Black Milk Clothing Illustrates How Not to Use Social Media.

They eventually issued an apology here, but it really has taken them a long time to come crawling back from a PR disaster that could have been avoided by a simple apology.

Here’s what I would have done:

  • After initial offence caused I would have removed the image, and accept that I’d made a mistake.
  • I would have acknowledged the people to whom I’d offended with a DM.
  • I would apologise, and apologise publicly. Heres something I whipped up using google and paint:
    Untitled-1

Now check out this post taken from the American Red Cross (@RedCross).

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This seems like the ultimate disaster. A Red Cross employee thought they were tweeting from their personal account, but actually tweeted from the official account.

As a social media manager it is a huge fear of mine. Initially, check and double check that this does not happen. Be careful, and probably best not to tweet and drink.

But, if it does happen here’s exactly how to deal with it.

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PR disaster avoided.

The PR team had obviously accepted a mistake had been made. They acknowledged their audience and in their own quirky way they apologised.

Perfect.

[i] http://www.buzzfeed.com/alyssajayne/how-not-to-use-social-media-101-pgg2#.mmgazYYMA

[i] http://sites.tufts.edu/publichealth/2014/09/18/the-als-ice-bucket-challenge-the-impact-of-social-media-on-health-communication/

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