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October 30, 2013 / Mervyn Dinnen

In Praise of Experience During a Time of Social Media Crisis

There have been a few blogs recently about social media crises. Storms around Tesco, The Sun, Ryanair and even our own HR brouhaha over Peacockgate have all thrown the good and bad of open social comms in to a sharp light…possibly adding fuel to the arguments of those who fear and want to control it.
This comprehensive post from Rachel Miller offers much information and sound advice on how to prepare for a potential crisis. I like that she crowdsourced some of it, as this helps underline the collaborative, community style of the social comms – we can learn from each other and the best ideas need not come from multi national businesses.  In fact in these type of crises it’s often the bigger names that are most susceptible…although some the biggest can also afford to do very little or even ignore it completely – as Amazon showed earlier in the year.
I saw Euan Semple talk recently of the connection between your internal comms structure and your social approach – if you need a dozen people to approve a blog post then it’s unlikely that your social updates will have a natural flow to them.
Regular readers will know that I think posts like this one on why a business’ social engagement should be the preserve of the young, digitally native Gen Y/Millennials/interns are complete nonsense and you need look no further than a social media shitstorm to bear that out.
The keys for any of theses situations are usually tone, context and perspective. Knowing when the storm is at an early phase and when we’re reaching the eye. When to apologise, when to educate, when to pull the plug and how to turn it into a badge of honour. And never knee jerk in panic.
When I present on dealing with negative comments I always use this post and chart from Laurel Papworth.
It’s a pretty foolproof way to assess what to do and how, and you’ll notice that pretty much all the actions require sensitivity, perspective and balance. All things that come with experience.
Now you could be forgiven for thinking that someone who has a mile or two on the business experience clock would say that – but then what it does give you is a more measured, less excitable and responsible approach. For example I wouldn’t have responded to Peacockgate with a hashtag campaign of #ProudtoworkinHR as it appears to marginalise the profession with a whiff of minority defiance, implying that we know that most others see us as being different or a problem. It also failed to tackle with the points being raised…there were more sensible ways to tackle it and take ownership of the debate.
Once in a while there’s nothing wrong with having a bit of experience – hell, it may even be a positive.
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