How to Manage Organized Social Media Attacks from Opponents

social-media-attacksThis Q&A Monday post answers a question posed by reader, Lisa Frizzell:

How can social media be used to manage organized attacks from opponents?

Being attacked by opponents with campaigns on social media that go – or have the potential of going – viral is a fear that many brands share in common. Especially when you look at the attacks that well-organized Greenpeace have successfully launched against organizations the likes of Nestlé and BP.

So what if this happens to you? What if an opponent of yours decides to launch an online campaign with the aim of hurting your organization’s reputation? From fake social media accounts that cause havoc with your online supporters, as we saw with Just Jeans’s social media issue, to more aggressively orchestrated campaigns like Greenpeace’s Kit Kat video campaign. How can you protect your brand against such attacks before and during their execution?

Preventing and preparing for social media attacks from opponents

Step 1: Have your online reputation established beforehand
I say this often: The stronger your online presence is before any sort of online attack, the better it is for your brand. This includes:

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  • Having strong search engine rankings for your website and all targeted keywords, including but not limited to: company name, products, services, industry terms and executives’ names
  • Developing strong relationships of good-will with your market on social media and other online platforms
  • Positioning your company as a thought-leader within the industry by publishing studies, reports, blog posts, articles, tweeting and sharing valuable links from others, etc

Why is this a good strategy?
Having no online presence leaves you extremely vulnerable, as does having a weak one. When you find yourself in social media hot water and people start Googling your company name and related keywords, you want your positive messaging to be found as much as possible. Not having a strong online presence will make this task much harder for you to achieve when negative content is being published about your brand by others.

Step 2: Plan for the worst, before the worst happens
This means having a contingency plan in place – and making sure your employees are trained for it. This should include, but is not limited to:

  • Having the ability to detect the red flags
  • Developing response and communications strategies – including holding statements where applicable
  • Creating visual triage charts and making them accessible to each one of your employees for quick referral
  • Developing response guidelines and policies
  • Establishing escalation protocols
  • Developing a contact flow chart
  • Establishing and training a social media crisis and issues team

Strategies for dealing with social media attacks by opponents

Every situation is different, but the following are some questions and strategies to consider when preparing for (or worse, reacting and responding to) social media attacks by opponents:

  • What types of situations merit or call for a response from your brand, and in what situations will a public response make the situation worse?
  • Who within the organization should respond and how? Does it call for your front-line employees in order to connect with your audience, or is it severe enough that your CEO should be addressing the situation head-on?
  • What type of response is needed? A video response to confront a video attack? Responding on the original channel and then linking to a more complete response published to one of your own channels?…
  • Should you get creative like Bodyform decided to do in response to a Facebook rant on their wall?
  • How can you get your loyal advocates and fans to help you through this situation?
  • Which high-profile blogs and news sites are, or will be, reporting on the subject, and should you consider going on-record with an interview in order to help get your message out there?
  • What does your audience and market need to hear from you? Do you need to apologize for your actions and let them know how you will make sure this situation never happens again? Do you need to stand up and defend yourself? Which strategy will bring you closer to your audience, developing stronger ties and good-will?
  • If the campaign is based on rumors and falsehoods, how can you prove the truth and what types of legal actions can you consider pursuing, if any?

The best thing that your company or organization can do, is consider all of the above questions, options and strategies before you find yourself in this type of unfortunate situation. We’re all at risk of being attacked online in one form or another, and it’s a risk that needs to be planned and prepared for in advance.

To weigh out the best strategies for your brand and to develop those strategies into plans of action, contact Melissa Agnes Crisis Management.

photo by: avinashkunnath

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