by Allie Carrick

Open dialogue between business and consumer has never been more public, practical and immediate. Using Twitter and Facebook to publically address PR setbacks has become standard practice. However, using social media this way can be hazardous to your brand if the use isn’t properly planned out. Here are few tips for preparing your organization for the social media obsessed world:

1.   Seek out advice on your social media needs or constructive ways to use social media in the event of a PR problem. Smirk New Media is here to help. We have an informed and educated staff that will equip your organization with the right tools to be prepared in everyday social media practice and in the event of a crisis.

2.   Implement an organization wide social media policy. We can’t assume people understand social media use within an organizational setting and its boundaries. Most of you have an Internet policy and social media requires its own. Make sure your organization has a clear, appointed social media director responsible for online presence. Be clear on what you expect to see on your organization’s social media accounts and inform each person on how you will use social media to communicate during a brand crisis. You don’t want individual employees spinning a message about things happening in your company that is the opposite of your company’s last tweet. Also, encourage employees to utilize privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter. Although they should still be mindful of things they say online, the risk of reflecting poorly on your company is reduced when the message is contained to personal friends.

3.   Plan for the worst. Have plans prepared for how your company will react if your brand encounters a setback in the public. Will your company ignore or delete negative Facebook comments? Will you positively address negative comments? Should you allow people to comment and see other people’s comments on a blog post you know will be controversial? These questions and more should be considered objectively and answered before an issue arises.

4.   Implement social media training. Don’t just throw a booklet at your company and hope they grasped the concepts. Hold face-to-face programs educating on social media and acceptable uses within the company. Equip as many employees as possible to create positive online presences.
5.   Learn from other companies and their mistakes. Learning from others is the start of a proactive effort to avoid mishandling your social media accounts. Recently, Netflix responded to a brand crisis by posting an apology blog from its CEO that was equipped with a Facebook plug-in. This plug-in allowed people to use their Facebook accounts to comment on the blog. The comments were public, and people could respond to previous comments. Allowing this feature on a controversial blog resulted in a hostile, negative environment where customers fed off each other’s resentments ON the company blog. The blog quickly received over 20,000 comments and the topics included angry rants and people suggesting alternate streaming and DVD companies. This was not a positive social media strategy and didn’t further that company’s positive image at all, which should be a main goal of organizational social media use.