Social media is nothing new. It's been around for almost two decades. However, new practitioners are constantly entering field, and with every new marketing professional comes the risk of repeating the mistakes of the past. The old aphorism, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” is just as true in marketing as it is in life.
In this series, we’ll examine modern enterprise social media strategy, what marketers need to know to make social media work for the midsize or enterprise organization.
Part 8: Communicate
Inevitably, at some point in our social media marketing career, we will be required to monitor and respond to an urgent situation. While crisis communications and community monitoring are often part of the public relations function, as social media managers in the enterprise, we will be an essential part of the solution.
Crisis communications follows a four-part framework I’ve learned over the years, the FIRE framework:
FIRE, as shown above, stands for:
Let’s look at each of these stages in more depth.
Social media monitoring is essential to finding problems before they begin. Monitoring is something we must do on a regular, frequent basis; the larger our social media audience, the more frequently we need to monitor. If we’re a global brand, monitoring should be 24x7.
What should we be monitoring? At a bare minimum, we need to monitor two categories, which should be familiar to any digital marketer with SEO experience:
- Branded terms. We must monitor for every mention of our products, services, company name and brand, key executives, etc. to ensure that we detect problems about us specifically.
- Unbranded terms. We should also monitor for key terms within our industry, conversations which may not affect us directly now, but could affect us in the future. For example, a political change which impacts our overall industry could become a branded problem in a few months when the legislation takes effect.
Unlike normal social media monitoring, which tends to use sampled data, social media monitoring for crisis communications must capture the entire conversation stream verbatim. One missed conversation early on can snowball to a significant problem later.
To monitor effectively, consider enterprise monitoring tools which use machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify potentially problematic social media conversations. Regular social media tools often have terrible, inaccurate sentiment and tone analysis, so look for tools that partner with best-in-class AI technologies from companies like IBM, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
Once our social media monitoring software finds a problem, we must investigate it. How serious is the problem? How widespread is it? How difficult will it be to correct it?
Rate problems on a four-part scale, derived in part from an Eisenhower matrix:
- How urgent is the problem? Understand the timeline - did this problem just occur? Is it a problem that has been brewing for some time under the radar?
- How important is the problem? Understand the relative risks to the best of our ability. Is the company at financial risk? Is our reputation at stake? Or is the problem of a lower caliber?
- How difficult is the problem? Understand, within reasonable limits, how much effort will be required to solve the problem.
- How credible is the problem? Is it mere complaining on the Internet? Is the problem fictitious? Is the problem very real, a clear and present danger?
For example, suppose the problem is that a customer received a bad meal.
- This is a relatively urgent problem, in that it is a timely complaint.
- Depending on how bad the meal was, the problem could be important; ask any restaurant franchise how quickly bad news and reviews can spread.
- This type of problem is relatively easy to fix; offering the customer remuneration, refund, or credit towards a future purchase can fix many ills.
- Social media meta-data helps to establish the credibility of the problem. A post geo-tagged inside the restaurant, with a photo of the food in question, is reasonable proof that the complaint is legitimate.
Once our investigation is complete - meaning we have assessed at first glance the urgency, importance, difficult, and credibility of the problem - we move onto review.
For problems without much urgency, importance, difficulty, or credibility, we may be empowered to simply move onto engagement and provide an after-action report to our stakeholders of the steps we took to remediate the problem.
However, if a problem is important - meaning it poses financial or repetitional risk to the company - we must stop for review. We need to submit the problem, along with potential solutions or courses of action, to our stakeholders and any required partners. In the enterprise, this may mean:
- Legal counsel, if the problem is likely to require legal action of any kind
- Finance, if the problem poses a fiduciary risk to the company
- Human Resources, if the problem has any applicability to company employees, or company employees are the cause for the problem
Before a crisis, develop a flowchart with various scenarios and establish procedures for review. Based on the severity of a problem, who should be notified? Which problems require review and sign off, and which problems require mere notification?
Any one of these stakeholders may escalate our company’s response to the problem from individual responses to an organizational response if judged important, urgent, or difficult enough.
After review, assuming that a response is not prohibited by one or more of the stakeholders above, we engage with our audience. When it comes to crisis communications response, we must engage along three dimensions:
- Speed in response: While adhering to review processes, we must be as fast in response as possible. Ideally, our policies permit us to respond with an acknowledgement of receipt and status updates, even if we’re not permitted to ultimately disclose a resolution publicly
- Ownership in response: To the greatest extent possible, we should take ownership of the problem in our response, acknowledging what we’re responsible for and our willingness to correct it.
- Information in response: Within the boundaries of what we’re able to provide (often, confidentiality issues prohibit specific, explicit problem details), we should provide as much information as possible in our response, to demonstrate we have done our due diligence in investigating the problem.
These three response factors mirror urgency, importance, and difficulty, our investigation factors.
We respond with speed as an acknowledgement of the urgency our audience feels.
We respond with ownership of the problem as an acknowledgement of our audience’s importance to us.
We respond with knowledge of the problem as testimony to our audience that we’ve done the difficult work of attempting to fix the problem.
When we fight fire with the FIRE framework, we work to provide an outcome that our audience desires while remaining consistent with our own internal policies and appetite for risk.
In the final post in this series, we’ll discuss enterprise social media analytics and insights.
The 8C Enterprise Social Media Strategy Framework
- Enterprise Social Media Strategy, Part 1 of 9: Introduction
- Enterprise Social Media Strategy, Part 2 of 9: Clarify
- Enterprise Social Media Strategy, Part 3 of 9: Create
- Enterprise Social Media Strategy, Part 4 of 9: Choose
- Enterprise Social Media Strategy, Part 5 of 9: Connect
- Enterprise Social Media Strategy, Part 6 of 9: Coordinate
- Enterprise Social Media Strategy, Part 7 of 9: Collaborate
- Enterprise Social Media Strategy, Part 8 of 9: Communicate
- Enterprise Social Media Strategy, Part 9 of 9: Conclude
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