(DGIwire) — Social media has become a ubiquitous part of our lives. Every time we check LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, another person is writing a status about the minutiae of their day. Even A-List celebrities take time out of their busy schedules to interact with their fans on the Internet or post a “selfie.” But social media isn’t just for the singular person anymore. Companies are also using sites to their advantage to interact more directly with their customers.
For companies, having a social media presence can be both a blessing and a curse. Many of these sites are free, so they can get the word out about a new product instantaneously to millions of people. However, this communication goes both ways. It has never been easier for a disgruntled customer to rant online about their poor experience, likely poisoning many potential customers against a certain brand.
Take the fashion company Kenneth Cole, for example. In the midst of the 2011 protests in Cairo, Egypt, which caused the deaths of hundreds of persons and was intended to facilitate the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whoever was in charge of Kenneth Cole’s Twitter posted an insensitive tweet, saying that the reason for the uproar was because “people had heard about our new spring collection.” Within minutes, people began tweeting their outrage, forcing Kenneth Cole’s public relations department to scramble to fix this serious misstep. Kenneth Cole is not alone in its temporary social media disaster. Brand name companies likely paying big PR fees, such as Papa John’s, Kmart, MSN, Kitchen Aid, Urban Outfitters and Chrysler, to name a few, have all been guilty of putting their foot in their virtual mouths. Although all recovered and were able to assuage their situations before any permanent damage was done to their reputations, it is certainly a better practice for all companies to have a plan to make sure this embarrassment doesn’t happen in the first place.
Dian Griesel, Ph.D., the author of a new book, ENGAGE: Smart Ideas to Get More Media Coverage, Build Your Influence & Grow Your Business, and President of Dian Griesel International, an award-winning media relations and news placement agency based in New York City, knows the importance of keeping a watchful eye on social media accounts. Dian suggests these useful tips to get the most out of social media accounts and still walk away with one’s reputation intact:
- Have a committee. Entrust only one person, or a small team, to manage your company’s accounts so that you know exactly who is posting and who has access to classified information.
- Establish a company-wide response policy. If something does happen, have a pre-established chain of command. Determine who will speak to the press first so that you will come off as calm, cool and collected in the event of an emergency.
- Fight fire with positive fire. If you do receive negative comments, don’t let the “haters” get a rise out of you. Resist the urge to fight back. Let your public relations team handle it, and focus on putting forth a positive image. Your loyal customers will be able to see past a few disgruntled voices.
“Social media can be a huge benefit for your company,” says Dian. “However, I urge all employees, from the CEO down to the newest hire, to understand exactly what the company or organization’s policy is regarding Internet usage. It can truly make or break your reputation.”