Managing Through a Business Crisis with Social Media
What do you think are the biggest obstacles to the C-Suite embracing a social intranet? The consensus answer, recently posed by an online community of industry experts, was the lack of substantive evidence on how social intranets increase profitability, decrease cost, or mitigate risk.
When introducing a new technology across a large organization, a change management best practice is to find a use case that has clear business value and solves a real need that senior leaders care about. If you can show them how enterprise social networking tools work on a manageable scale and their benefits, senior leaders are more likely to support broader use of social media within the enterprise.
A good case for introducing social media technologies in large companies is crisis management. Senior stakeholders need and want an organized, trusted, and transparent way to engage and respond to customers and key constituencies when confronted with a corporate crisis or a disruptive business condition.
Let’s look at how social media was used (or not!) by companies that were confronted with a significant business-impacting event:
BP – Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill (2010) – During the crisis, hundreds of BP personnel were involved in the response and thousands more were involved in the containment and clean-up efforts. Initially, BP did not use any social media messaging to inform, answer questions, gain sympathy, or show that they cared deeply for the lives lost, the damage to the environment, and the resulting economic challenges across the gulf region. Instead, they chose to distribute limited information through official spokespersons, and when they did speak up it was to assign blame elsewhere. By the time BP realized the common public perception was that of inactivity and ineptness, it was too late and the brand damage had already been done. So much for the millions of dollars and years BP spent crafting an image as an environmentally and socially aware firm. Eventually BP began incorporating social media into their PR efforts, but their efforts were lost in the sea of anti-BP messages that beat them onto Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Blackberry® Network Outage (2011) – Research In Motion (RIM), the company that makes the Blackberry phones, issued several service updates on its website but failed to fully disclose what had happened or get in front of the situation using social media channels. Their lack of a formalized implementation of a social response, especially given their stature as a global smartphone and messaging leader, served to increase customer concern about the leadership team and impact their brand. Just three hours after the start of the outage, their tech team tech team @BlackberryHelp, oblivious to the social media disaster they were facing, were cheerfully chirping from their account: “Hey #teamBlackberry Happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend!
Sony PlayStation® Network Attack (2011) – Initially, Sony was hesitant to say much more than the network was down and they were investigating. Six days into the outage, Sony finally released a detailed update via email and on their PlayStation blog that they had experienced a very serious network intrusion and that customers’ personal information may have been compromised. A class action suit has been filed on behalf of customers for failing to inform them in a timely fashion that their personal information may have been compromised.
Netflix Service Outage (2011) – When an unexpected network outage occurred, using both traditional and social media channels, Netflix responded within about a half hour of the outage, informing customers that they were aware of the issue and that were taking steps to correct it. What Netflix failed to do was address the sheer volume of buzz around the issue. A number of Twitter hashtags were instantly floating around and the vast majority of the tweets mentioned Netflix. They missed the opportunity to respond with personalized tweets letting people know that cared about their concerns.
Amazon Web Services Outage (2011) – Although Amazon had a historically bad outage shortly after the Sony outage, Amazon kept up a running commentary with its customers by leveraging information from its social intranet and having its employees provide customers with constant updates and information. They also acknowledged that they could have done better to provide even more details about what was going on, how long it would take to fix, and what they were doing so that it doesn’t happen again.
When a crisis occurs or a significant issue develops, customers are increasingly turning first to their social networks, whether they’re seeking the latest information or just want to complain. Companies that are ready to respond in this medium quickly, repeatedly, personally, and with a coherent message, can mitigate some of the immediate damage and prevent long-lasting negative sentiment from developing around their brand.
Don’t be caught wondering what to say when the unexpected happens. Check out this blog, which provides a 7-step playbook for using social media for crisis communication and management.
Please share if you know of other examples of companies effectively using social media to respond to a crisis. Are there social media tools that are helpful in these situations?