Speed and scope play key roles in social media crises

Be it a natural disaster, lawsuit, or plane crash, a crisis communications plan is something that companies know they must prepare for in advance of an event.

Be it a natural disaster, lawsuit, or plane crash, a crisis communications plan is something that companies know they must prepare for in advance of an event. But a social media crisis has yet to be added to many companies' contingency plans, and that's a huge mistake. These crises spread quickly, moving from a single outcry on a blog to Twitter to an AP story all within a single day, which was the case with Amazon.com during the Easter weekend.

After several books, particularly those with homosexual themes, were removed from the site's rankings, an author of one of the books wrote about it on his blog, and it escalated from there. The Twitter community picked up on the incident and created tags: #amazonfail and #glitchmyass. Amazon did not address the issue on its blog or Twitter account, and still has not. Its sole response appears to be a blanket statement issued to media outlets. A canned response won't win sympathy from media, nor does it demonstrate the engagement necessary to reach today's public that is sharing news via social networks.

Similarly, Domino's recently faced a social media crisis when a YouTube video of employees in a North Carolina location doing disgusting things to the food surfaced on Consumerist. The company smartly responded by firing the employees to show it took the incident seriously. Although the pizza maker was initially criticized for not reacting fast enough, it did in the days that followed post information about the incident to its blog, and create its first corporate Twitter account to “listen” and reach those audiences.

Speed is crucial to a social media crisis because it cuts away at the chatter if a company can offer a reason and solution to the problem. But it's also equally important to reach these audiences where they are – not simply through mainstream media, as is still happening. All channels have to be utilized. This ensures that the message is properly received and shows respect to these audiences.

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