You can never stop bad things from happening. Businesses are run by people, and people make mistakes. What is more important is how you react to a mistake you make or one of your employees make on social media networks to avoid any long-term damage to you reputation. Although you are not always at fault, individuals with malicious intent can orchestrate a campaign to malign your reputation.
Earlier, only a few people who had access to mass media could attack someone’s reputation. Social media has now enabled anyone with a mobile phone and a decent following to reach millions and cause irreparable damage.
While fame can be achieved in minutes and hours, reputation must be earned over a period. Reputation is also something that you must nurture and protect all the time and therefore is an ongoing job; a job that requires skill and agility to handle negative sentiment. An attack on reputation on social media is akin to be lynched by an unruly mob.
Before you train your social media team for this war, it is important to understand the internal and external threats to your business’ reputation.
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1. Disgruntled Employees
Disgruntled and unhappy employees can mean heavy losses and less than optimum work for employers. But that is not the only problem. Increasingly, employees who disagree with some company policies discuss these on the SM networks with their friends and family.
One person making an emotional rant may not need your attention immediately. However, in a highly charged atmosphere, if the policy is relevant to the current national problem, the rant can easily spread like a wild fire and travel great distances. This was quite evident from the social media storm created by HMV employees who took over HMV’s official Twitter account.
I would assume that most whistleblowers would report wrongdoing because of their moral and ethical standards. While systematic reporting is required for the government to take legal action, Internet and social media networks require no such mechanism.
The whistleblower’s claims may or may not be true and may not even stand legally. As with any rumor, a negative or controversial statement is shared much faster and farther than a positive remark.
3. Product or Service Quality
Social media is used for almost every aspect of business – marketing, customer support, recruitment, and talent development and retention – but the busiest and popular application of social media is customer support.
Again, a happy customer may not go to your website or social media account to praise your product. However, dissatisfied customers will jump to all available resources to air their views against your product or service. More so if all their attempts through traditional channels have failed.
Replacing a bad product is an obligation; not a solution to the bad experience your customers have.
4. Unprofessional Conduct
Interactions on social media platforms can be as busy as you want them to be. Everything’s fine as long as you are doing things yourself or have absolute control over what goes out to the world. But most large organizations and some small businesses will have a dedicated staff to handle marketing and customer support dialogue with their followers and fans.
So what happens if this person makes a mistake and fails to handle an irate customer? The business must be ready to handle a situation that can quickly turn ugly because of the employee’s misconduct.
5. Leaked Documents
WikiLeaks. That one word is enough to explain the gravity of the damage a leaked final or draft document or an internal memo can cause your business. In addition to this, employees may inadvertently share some proprietary information via email or training material. Even though the purpose here may be as innocent as helping out a friend or family member, any copyrighted information that leaves your door (or virtual fence) is open to criticism and misuse.
Although the common thread across all these scenarios is the highly connected network of people where news can go viral and reach millions in no time, the reasons of and therefore the response strategy must differ to counter the crises.
At a high level, we can say that a feedback mechanism is essential in every function of your organization so that you are not taken unawares by any of the above scenarios. Setting up a process for diffusing the situation is as important as minimizing these risks.
Have you ever encountered any of the above scenarios? How did you deal with them? Have you set up a process to address each of these above situations? We want to know your experience. Please write to us or leave a comment. We look forward to hearing your real life experiences.