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Kathi Kruse

Kathi Kruse President

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Social Media Crisis Management: Are You Prepared?

Social Media Crisis Management: Are You Prepared?What would you do if the FTC came knocking on your door? How would you handle what started out as a simple oversight from one employee and turned into a Social Media firestorm?  This is the age of quick-trigger reactions from the buying public.  If you don’t have an already-established Social presence AND a crisis management strategy in place, you could get hung out to dry.

Take for instance these 3 examples of Social Media debacles.  Are you prepared for something like this to happen to your business?

Belvedere Vodka Goes Down

We all know sex sells, but it appears somebody forgot to tell Belvedere Vodka that forced sex doesn’t come under that rule.  Harrison Painter, well-known digital/Social Media marketer, covered this well in his article recently. Belvedere posted an ad on their Facebook page showing what appears to be a very frightened woman being grabbed by a possible rapist. The tag line added to the startling image stating “Unlike Some People, Belvedere Always Goes Down Smoothly“.  Instant firestorm. Did they have a crisis plan? No.  Belvedere’s response was a canned written statement out of the corporate policy handbook. It should’ve been a video; it should’ve been human.

Tesco’s iPad Typo

Large British supermarket chain Tesco offered iPads for $79.  Someone finally discovered the “error” in pricing as their website crashed.  Their response? Tesco sent this email to their customers:

“Thank you for your recent Tesco Direct order for an IPAD WI-FI 4G 64GB. Unfortunately, there was an error in the price at the time that you placed your order, and as a result we have had to cancel your order.”

As Harrison points out so powerfully, customers saw it as a PR stunt and took to Twitter to voice their complaints.

Honda San Marcos Auction Blunder

An employee posts a car for auction on Ebay and neglects to put a reserve price.  The car sells for $10K less than they were in it.  Dealership tells the buyer the transaction is void; buyer takes his case to Social Media.  Honda San Marcos’ reaction? Delete all Social Media accounts and run like hell.  Yep, that’s gonna do it. Their Yelp and Google Places accounts of course couldn’t be deleted so, today, 7 months later, Yelp shows 1.5 stars with 33 reviews–27 of those are ONE star.  Honda San Marcos eventually made things right with the buyer but since they deleted their Social networks, no one knows that.  What’s worse? They have no internal process to capture positive reviews so, all these months later, their networks’ reaction is still harming their business.

We all know what’s posted on the Internet is for keeps so removing your Social Media accounts only looks like you’re guilty and running from responsibility.  Besides, it’s highly probable that you can turn a negative into a positive with the right marketing finesse.

How could these stories have had a happy ending? The presence of these 2 fundamentals:

  • An established, engaged Social Media community
  • A well-strategized Crisis Management Plan.

Social Media Crisis Management Done Right

Tracy Myers is a car dealer in North Carolina.  He bought the dealership from his dad 6 years ago.  Suddenly last Fall, he got call from the FTC. They made it clear they were making an example of 5 dealers in the US and Tracy’s store was one of the lucky ones.

There’s a very common 10+ year old advertising practice which car dealers use saying “We’ll pay off your trade, no matter how much you owe.” Many dealers use it regularly because one of the obstacles to a car sale is the customer’s worry about their trade-in.  Paying off the trade-in on any car deal is actually required by law. The FTC felt that these ads were misleading so they slapped 5 to send a message to all the rest.

Tracy Myers is a well-respected businessman in his community. His family has been doing business in North Carolina for 83 years. He enjoys regular repeat business and genuinely cares about every customer that walks into his store.  Frank Myers Auto Maxx has 131 Google Places reviews for 4.5 stars.

Tracy’s store also has a well-established presence on Social Media.  He saw the value early and it’s that foresight that helped save him.  The time and effort he’s spent engaging with his community on Social Media is clearly a contributing factor to how he’s been able to weather this potential debacle.

What does a guy like Tracy do when faced with a crisis?

First, remarkably, he handled every call, every concern with style, grace and honor. At the end of the 48 hours it took, at 8:00 pm, he recorded an 11-minute response video that’s raw, authentic, transparent and genuine.  As a business owner or as one of Tracy’s customers, one can feel the emotions he’s feeling and empathize with him.  He looked down the barrel of a potential nightmare, stood firm in his core beliefs and integrity, and went to work righting the ship, remaining positive throughout the ordeal.

What would you have done if this had happened to you? Do you have an established community, online and off, to support you and be your advocates when a crisis occurs?  Take action now.  Build your store’s Social presence, including online reputation, and implement a solid Social Media Crisis Management Plan. 

Your turn: Have you or someone you know weathered a Social Media crisis? What would you have done differently?

Kathi Kruse
Social Media Coaching & Training

Jim Bell
What Tracy did was something that we all should learn from and how to handle things. He knew that there was a fire, and had to be put out before it got out of control like the Honda store. Great points and timely post Kathi.
Chris Costner
Excellent read with some great examples. Just goes to show you can't push problems aside because they will never go away. Thank you Kathi.

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