A Factsheet on dealing with a Social Media Fire based upon the Homeland Security’s ‘Get Out Safely!‘
have a plan, and more importantly share it with the front lines so everyone knows what to do when the fire occurs. What should the initial response be? Who should be notified?
Social media fires can start anywhere and involve any department. Make sure everyone has some idea on what to say or not. Test the escalation steps to make sure that people can actually reach the right person (and that the contact information is still correct!)
Many corporations restrict access to social networks, except for a select few, usually in the marketing group. This can make responses by others in and around the company difficult. At the critical moment, a social media fire can cause a lot of hysteria in the office. For those who can’t witness it first hand, they immediately think the worst and map out irrational responses.
Get the conversation out of the public view. When Southwest had it’s dust up with Kevin Smith, the first response was “hey Kevin! I’m so sorry for your experience tonight! Hopefully we can make things right, please follow so we may DM!”
Expect that the conversation will end up public, especially if it doesn’t go well for you, but taking the conversation out of the public eye allows you to deal with one person instead of the world and hopefully gives the person a chance to calm down.
Don’t get personal in the attack. Stay focused on the putting out he fire at hand. As much as you might like to say ‘look you are 300 pounds and our chair is only rated for 225. Hit the salad bar and then we will talk’, don’t open that door. Mashable reported on how Ann Taylor’s LOFT did this in their response to people claiming that LOFT clothes only look good on stick figures. Rather than send the people Farmville carrots, LOFT responded with pics of employees of all different body types wearing the clothes.
Make sure you have an easy to organize communication path when fires occur. Nobody likes to hear about a fire second hand related to something she was responsible for. Keep everybody up to date. Make it clear who is leading the conversation with the person.
Once the fire is under control, or at least being managed, move on. Don’t pepper the person with additional exchanges to see how things are going, or to make sure the person is happy. The person may never be happy, just placated. Don’t give the person another chance for a flare up.