Social media crisis: Four things you need to be ready

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Today, businesses are jumping headfirst and adopting the latest social media technology. It can be a blessing to be ahead of the curve—but a curse if you are not prepared for the potential threats.

According to a new research report by Altimeter Group titled “Social Business Ready: Advanced Companies Prepare Internally,” social media crises are on the rise, even though most (76%) could have been diminished or averted had companies invested internally. Think of Kenneth Cole, Nestle, BP Oil and many others that became poster children for social media crises. Diligent planning and investment in key social business requirements can offset the potential risks your company may face in the future. This is where you separate advanced companies from the rookies that are diving right in.

To become advanced, Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) outlines four key requirements to get your business ready for social media:
 n Baseline governance and reinforcement: An established and reinforced corporate social media policy that allows for employees to participate professionally.
 n Enterprise-wide response processes: Defined processes for rapid workflow and engagement with customers in social media.

  1.  n Ongoing education program and best practice sharing: Foster a culture of learning through ongoing social media education.
  2.  n Leadership from a dedicated and shared central hub: Organized in a scalable formation, with a cross-functional “center of excellence.” 

Policy first

Establishing a solid social media policy is key to protecting the company and its employees. A policy provides clear guidelines on acceptable employee behavior in social channels, safeguarding against legal risks when employees represent the brand in public. At JDA Software (@JDASoftware), we worked with key stakeholders from HR, legal and IT to ensure we developed a comprehensive policy that included guidelines on disclosure and confidentiality. We also required every employee to review and sign off on the policy following its worldwide rollout.

Triage process for rapid response

Policy must be accompanied by a triage plan to be response-ready. This means working with your corporate communications or PR team to define processes, workflow and rules of engagement internally and with customers. Define the workflow, internal stakeholders and types of crisis; then review the triage plan and process that ensures the appropriate course of engagement. Once the plan is approved, run through a fire drill to see if your team is ready (great advice from Jeremiah). If you have PR agencies worldwide, it’s important to get them onboard so you have a clear process for monitoring both traditional and new media, and for alerting the appropriate business leaders to respond in real time.

Continuous education

Ignorance may be bliss, but it can put your company and brand at risk. By properly educating your employees and executives on the proper dos and don’ts around the usage of social tools and engagement, you can avoid crisis. At JDA, we emphasized the importance of combining policy rollout with a comprehensive education program. Through our social media center of excellence, we are able to provide specific best practices education around key social networking tools. We also invested heavily in educating our social media ambassadors (those individuals specifically tasked with representing our brand via social channels) to ensure they had all the tools and information necessary to smartly participate and engage online.

Social media hub or center of excellence

Getting ahead of the demand and addressing concerns starts with providing corporatewide leadership on all things social media. But advanced companies are taking this to the next level by deploying a hub-spoke model that allows them to scale while providing leadership. According to Jeremiah, the hub at the center of this model empowers business units with leadership and shared resources, allowing for enterprisewide coordination.

Full report can be accessed here.

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