Recent research shows most organizations are nowhere near ready for a social media disaster. A report by the Altimeter group revealed that 76% of such events which occurred between 2001 and 2011 could have been avoided or diminished if companies had invested in effective internal processes.
And the study showed that while social media disasters are on the rise, most companies are not prepared to deal with them. Organizations are quick to deploy the latest technology, but we haven’t yet even agreed what to call it when things go terribly wrong. Social media disaster? Social media crisis? Social media s**tstorm?
These events may fall down the definitional cracks between issue management and traditional crisis management. But whatever they are called, they are no less real – especially as a threat to organizational reputation. The pace of social media screw-ups seems to be increasing, and the last few months have thrown up some ominous examples
• Qantas launched an ill-timed online competition inviting travellers to describe their “dream luxury inflight experience” and unleashed a torrent of gripes from angry passengers
• Toronto-based Timothy’s Coffee offered coffee packs to anyone who “liked” its page, but the free coffee ran out within three days and the company had to admit the promotion was “first come, first served”
• Hershey invited their Facebook fans to upload photos to promote S’mores chocolate and the page was hijacked by activists against cocoa allegedly harvested by slave labour
• A Facebook competition organized by Nissan Australia turned sour when a car was won by a close friend of one of the staff organizing the promotion
• And most recently, international affordable jewellery retailer Claire’s provided a case study in how to totally mismanage on-line controversy when British company Tatty Devine accused them of plagiarising designs
None of these cases destroyed companies or cost lives. But they highlight failures of preparedness and failures of response. And more specifically reveal problems of fragmented technology, lack of formalized internal social media policy and failure to address social media risks in corporate crisis planning. The Altimeter report suggests four internal requirements for success;
• A corporate social media policy which empowers employees to participate in social media as representatives of the brand
• An enterprise-wide defined social media response plan for rapid and consistent online customer engagement
• Ongoing social media education, with employees formally trained and certificated in best practice
• A cross-functional corporate social media “centre of excellence” closely aligned to senior management
Need help getting ready to avoid a social media disaster? Contact Tony Jaques