How to manage your reputation online (3 of 4)

Developing a strong online profile

You’ve registered social media accounts in your name. And you are listening to what people are saying about you online. But that’s not enough to protect your reputation. You also need to establish a strong profile so that positive links to content you control show up when people search for your name. It’s not that hard. But it does take some structured effort.

Your social media accounts

It isn’t sufficient to have a social media account with no content. A Twitter account with no tweets could damage your reputation (have you got nothing to say of interest?) and a LinkedIn page with no information certainly won’t help your employment prospects.

So the first thing to consider is how you are going to make you social media profiles credible. The basics are obvious: make sure you have a good profile picture (no Twitter “eggs” please!); and make sure you attend carefully to what your profiles say about you. If you don’t have the time or energy to fill out full profiles for all those social media accounts you have registered, choose one to complete carefully and then link the other profiles to it.

But you also need a regular stream of content. Now, if you are using social media for marketing you will want to think carefully about the content you write for each of your accounts. But we are doing this simply for reputation management so it doesn’t matter particularly if the content in various different accounts is the same. Rather than cutting and pasting your posts from Facebook to LinkedIn and Google+, you can use a service like BufferApp to schedule and distribute your posts to multiple social media accounts. That way you have have several active social media accounts without writing content separately for each one.

Your website

In the first post in this series, I suggested registering a URL in your name perhaps using the suffix .me if it is available. If you do this you might as well also build a small website containing your resume. (If you are not comfortable with this then head for CodeAcademy where you can learn how to programme a simple website: it is much easier than you might imagine.)

If you are comfortable with coding html, then it is important to remember that your website should be “mobile friendly” as Google will rank it higher if it is. Use a template to help you: there are plenty online but you could try Proweb Design’s Simple Responsive Template.

And if you are really competent with coding then you will implement “rich snippets” on your website using schema.org data. Find out more about rich snippets here. Using rich snippets will make your website more strongly on search results page, simply because more content will be shown.

If you have a  common name then it is unlikely that you will see it on the first page of Google (take a look at what comes up when you search for “John Smith” – it’s not ordinary people). If that is the case then perhaps there is less reason for reputation management purposes to create your own website – although it might be useful in other ways.

Wikipedia

If you are running a business it is reasonable to consider developing a page on Wikipedia. Remember though that Wikipedia is NOT the place for self-promotion. The site enforces a strict “Neutral Point of View” policy that means only facts based on valid sources can be published.

Unless you are running a reasonably sized business or are in some way a prominent person it is probably unnecessary to have a Wikipedia page. Indeed there are disadvantages to having one. As the site is strictly neutral anything bad about you that can be verified can be added to the page. So if you have been to prison recently you might not want to create a page… Wikipedia gives an excellent explanation of why it is not always a good thing to have a Wikipedia page.

Remember also that even if you write a page about yourself it may not be published. Wikipedia requires pages to be about content that has “significant coverage in reliable sources”. If you cannot provide links to this type of coverage then your page may be declined as “non-notable”.

Whether or not you have a Wikipedia page it is important to monitor it: if you are being mentioned on the site then you will want to check out whether the facts given are true. If they are, and they are damaging, then you won’t be able to do much about it, although you may be able to add some additional verifiable facts that are more favourable to you.

Blogs and discussions

It is pointless thinking about blogging unless you are prepared to put some energy into it. That means having a regular stream of content. You don’t have to post content every day. But it should be at least once a month for your blog to have any credibility. Use a site like Tumblr or WordPress to host your blog and you immediately benefit from the popularity of those sites.

Don’t confine yourself to your own blog as you build up your profile though. Identify some key blogs in your industry in or areas you are interested in and follow them, contributing your own comments to them as appropriate. How to find them? Well, back in the day, when the web was smaller, there were a number of blog directories. With so many blogs published, most existing directories tend to focus on particular areas. Google “Blog [area of interest]” and you will probably be lucky. Or go straight to a search engine that specialises in blogs like Icerocket.

As well as blogs, find other places you can leave comments or join discussions: popular media websites for instance, or community sites.

Other platforms

Think creatively about other platforms you could use. Look for popular websites that have a good reach as these will rank highly. Are there any societies or industry bodies you can join: if there are do they have a place where you can write a personal or business profile? For instance I belong to the Institute of Consulting which enables me to publish a profile about my services on a reasonably prominent website. And if you are running a business you might want to put a review of working for your company on a site like Glassdoor.

Google and Google+

One last thing to consider: Google. Make sure you make it as easy as possible for Google to find you and to rank your pages highly. This means having a Google+ presence with a good “headshot” photograph: this is helpful if you want to stand out in search results. Google used to use the photo in search results and while it no longer does this, your photo can still appear on the right of the screen as part of a mini profile that Google will create. You should also implement  Google “authorship” on your website and your blogs: it’s not the easiest thing in the world although perfectly achievable and there are several good guides on how to do it such as this from Searchengineland.

Next time…

So far we have talked about registering appropriate URLs and social media profiles, listening to what people say about you online, and establishing a strong profile. But what do you do if people start trying to damage your reputation? You will have to wait for my next post for that!

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Could you manage an international social media campaign?

Could you manage an international social media campaign?

Social media campaigns are hard enough at the best of times. Soggy metrics, a lack of control, unexpected reactions…So adding an international dimension can make them even harder.

But if you are faced with managing an international campaign, what are the areas you need to consider?

I have been involved with a good number of international clients over the years and they are never easy to manage. Some of the learnings from international advertising campaigns are easy to apply to social media though.

Global vs local

The problem with international campaigns is knowing how “global” or “local” campaigns should be – to what extent they should be the same around the world and to what extend they should be designed for individual markets. And the answer to this is likely to vary across markets.

In some territories local activity will predominate. While in other territories it may be appropriate to use global assets that are produced by head office. The balance will depend on a number of factors.

Language

The simplest thing to address is language. If a client is headquartered in an English speaking country then running campaigns in English may be a logical solution for other English speaking countries and even in countries (such as Sweden, the Netherlands and India) where large parts of the population speak English.

However, while this is an easy solution, it may not be the best. Cultural differences may mean that campaign messages in one country may not be well received in another. Early UK advertisements for Coca Cola’s Dasani water used the message “Can’t live without spunk”. True possibly, but not something calculated to attract the average UK consumer. Research into whether localisation is needed is essential. And this is true whether or not messaging is being translated from one language to another.

Consumer perceptions

Another very obvious thing to address is the consumer. It is quite possible that the brand you are working with is perceived very differently in certain markets.

The oddest example of this I have come across was a UK cough sweet that was associated in Germany with, er, physical love! Fashion and retail brands often show differences around the world: for instance Levi Jeans have less fashion cachet in the USA than they do in Europe. Fast food too: Millward Brown show how Burger King is a weak brand in Belgium (compared with MacDonalds) but a strong brand in Mexico.

But getting the right message across to consumers isn’t necessarily the hardest part of managing an international social media campaign. There are many other issues.

Local platforms

A “one size fits all” approach to which social media platforms to use is unlikely to work. For instance Twitter penetration in Spain is around three time that of France but only half that of Saudi Arabia. Some markets, notably China and Japan, are very different from Western Europe and North America.

Local strategy implementation will need to take account of the strengths of different social media platforms. For instance if the strategy is to disseminate lots of photographs, then using Instagram to supplement picture posts on Facebook may be wasted effort in markets like Canada and France but worthwhile in Germany and Indonesia.

Local resources

If you are working with local operations in international markets then you will almost always find that resources in individual countries will vary widely, as will skill levels. One market may have a team of half a dozen experienced social media marketers, while in another the intern looks after social media in between doing the filing.

This means that you may need to moderate the amount of global assets you share with some local markets, or at least give territories with less resource the option to pick and choose between which global assets they decide to use.

 Local perceptions of social media

In most countries around the world consumers use a lot of social media. But that doesn’t mean that local marketers take social media seriously. There may be a big education job to be done helping local marketing managers understand why, and how, to use social media.

Where you are dealing with a local market that is sceptical about social media, it will be important to avoid a situation where social media is managed by a junior who may post inappropriately, without any (informed) supervision; social media is global and you won’t always be able to stop people in one country reading damaging posts in another country.

Local independence

Some local marketing operations will be more independent and harder to influence than others. Managers in a large territory such as the USA may well feel that they don’t need (or want) central control.

This may be especially true if the territory concerned has a heritage in effective social media marketing (which you could argue is the case in many English and Spanish speaking markets).

Dealing with resentment aimed at “interference from the centre” is always difficult. Providing reasons to use global strategies and assets (such as cost saving) is likely to be more effective than simply mandating the approach they must take.

Building consensus through joint development of assets and best practice will also help. And with social media, this shouldn’t be too difficult given that accepted knowledge of how best to use social media is still building.

Local laws

And finally do remember that laws vary across the world. For instance a competition that is legal in one country may be illegal in another. And similarly some countries have very stringent rules about endorsements.

Ensuring that local market operations are aware of the rules of what they can and cannot do on social media is important if you don’t want the humiliation of having your campaigns being deemed illegal or noncompliant by local regulators.

All in all

Setting up and managing an international social media campaign isn’t easy. As well as understanding how consumers differ across markets there are many practical issues around the nature and relative strengths of local marketing partners.

The safest way forward is to develop a global strategy with input from local markets and then allow local markets to tweak the global strategy, localise global assets and, if appropriate, add their own local content. Developing appropriate best practice guidelines to help less experienced local partners will also be important.

 

What to do if your social media accounts are hacked

If your Twitter feed is hacked, it isn’t likely to knock $160 billion off the Dow Jones. But it could still be very damaging to sales, recruitment or share price.

What will a hack look like?

You will know you have been hacked if unauthorised posts are sent out from your social media account. These might be for “spam” products like diet pills or Viagra. Or they might be designed to damage your reputation perhaps by endorsing competitors or vilifying your own products and brands. Or they might simply be mischievous. Alternatively a hack might involve a change in your social media profile: perhaps a new profile picture or a change to your description, again often with the aim damaging your business. Even if you have taken reasonable measures to stop your accounts from being hacked, they can still happen. So it is a good idea to have a plan in place, just in case. After all, if you are hacked then you will need to respond as rapidly as possible. So here is a simple 5-step plan for damage limitation after a social media hack.

Step 1. Regain control by resetting passwords

The first thing to do (or at least attempt) is to regain control of any hacked accounts. You will do that by changing the password on the account (ideally to something not quite so easy to hack!) If you can’t get access to the account, because the hackers have changed the password, then try resetting your password using the forgotten password link on the site. You should then get a message, sent to the email registered as belonging to the account’s administrator, which will allow you to reset the password. At the same time you should also change the password of the account administrator’s email address. This may have been hacked too and if it has then it will be all too easy for the hackers to gain control again.

If you can’t regain control

If the hackers have locked you out of your account and you can’t get back in, then you will need to contact the social platform directly. This may take a little time as there will be forms to fill in and proof to provide so it is important to start this process as soon as possible. All the big social media sites provide an easy way into this process:

  • Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hacked
  • YouTube: support.google.com/youtube/answer/175276?hl=en (link to AutoRecovery at bottom of page)
  • LinkedIn: help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1501/ft/eng (link to Contact Us at bottom of page)
  • Twitter: support.twitter.com/articles/185703-my-account-has-been-hacked (link to Contact Support at bottom of page)
  • Google+: support.google.com/mail/answer/50270?hl=en

Lock down content publishing if you can

If you can, it’s a good idea to lock down any publishing activity while you check the security of all your social media accounts. Some software providers such as Nexgate’s ProfileLock will do this automatically should they detect an unauthorised change to your profiles.

Step 2. Protect your other platforms

The next thing you need to do is to check all your other social media platforms and ensure they have not been hacked as well. If they are safe check that they have a secure password and that this is different from the passwords on your other social media sites.

Step 3. Get back to normal

Once you have control back you will want to get your social media accounts back to the state they were in before the hacking incident.

Delete unwanted content

You will need to delete any unwanted content such as tweets that have been sent out without your authorisation. This doesn’t guarantee the content will disappear completely and for ever. Other people may have seen it and saved it or shared it with other people. But you can at least limit the possibility of other people seeing being exposed to messages you don’t want them to see.

Check account settings

Back in control, you will also want to make sure there aren’t any nasty surprises waiting for you. Have any automated responses been tampered with? Does your profile or email signature contain new and unwanted links? Have any Twitter lists been tampered with? Do you have new some “friends” you weren’t expecting to see?

Step 4. Let people know

There is no point in hiding the fact that you have been hacked. If it is embarrassing they are bound to find out. It is far better to tell people what has happened and apologise for it.

Tell your audience

Post messages, e.g. tweets, to anyone following you apologising for any inconvenience or offence caused. It may be appropriate to pay to promote these messages if that option is available on the platform you are using. If you don’t it is highly likely that many people who follow your social media accounts won’t see your explanation. It may also be sensible to put a message upon your website and any other “static” content such as blogs and even social media profiles. Some companies have ready-made web pages that are pre-approved and can be published quickly in the event of an emergency. It is likely that you will want this page to be a template of some sort so that the precise content can be adapted to suit the nature of the crisis.

Tell your employees

Make sure you have a clear communication plan that is directed towards your employees. They may need reassurance that the damage won’t affect them; they will certainly need to know what to do and say if they are asked about the crisis by friends or peers.

Tell the media

It is also sensible to tell the media, who are likely to pick up on a crisis anyway. Of course if the breach is trivial then there may not be any reason to do this but if the breach is potentially damaging then you will want to make sure any relevant media have your version of events as soon as possible.

5. Review your security

Once things have settled down you will want to review your security to reduce the risk of anything similar happening again. You will of course cover off the basics: make sure that passwords are robust and that you have managed and limited access to your social media accounts. But there are a few other things you need to do as well.

Review any apps that have access

Review any applications that have access to your social media accounts and remove any that you don’t recognize. Apps may include measurement tools, media owner sites, or tools that link different social media platforms. For instance if you want to see the apps that have access to your Twitter profile you can find them at twitter.com/settings/applications. If in doubt it may be safest to delete all applications and then start adding apps to your account from scratch.

Check for viruses

Run a virus scan on any devices that have been used to access your social media accounts to ensure you haven’t picked up a virus or other malware. Don’t forget to check any mobile devices that may be used and if home computers are ever used to access your social media accounts then ask the relevant people to check these too.

Enable 2-factor authentication

Many social networks now offer “2-factor authentication”. This is a security system which requires a number sent to a device like a mobile phone as well as your password to get access. Generally this makes it very difficult for a hacker to break into your account. So if this hasn’t been set up on your social media accounts you should do so right away, unless you are using software such as Single Sign On software that makes this unnecessary.

Review your training

Most hacking events are the result of human error – clicking on a phishing URL or using weak passwords for instance. In order to guard against future risk, review the knowledge of anyone who has the ability to log on to your social media accounts, whether or not they ever do so. Do they understand the need for strong passwords, are they aware of the risks caused by cookies, do they always check which site they are going to when clicking on shortened URLs, are they aware of how they might get fooled in a phishing attach? If your staff are knowledgeable about these issues then the chance of a social media hack will be very much reduced. Any other tips? Please do let us know.

3 steps to planning for a social media crisis

You might as well accept it. You’ll be involved in a social media crisis one day. And without the right planning that can hurt.

Planning to meet a crisis takes time and effort. But the principles behind the planning are reasonably simple.

So here are Mosoco’s 3 (not-so) easy steps!

Step 1: Audit

As usual, the first step is a little strategic auditing: where am I now, where do I want to get to; and how am I going to get there.

First of all you need to agree your crisis management requirements:  the types of crisis you are likely to face, the scale of the possible downside (so you can understand how much to invest), the ideal way you want to handle those crisis (how much can you afford to care about individual customers), and the results you want to see.

Once you have identified the “ideal world”, you need to audit your existing processes:

  • Are they complete; do they cover all your business functions and processes or are they firmly placed within PR or Marketing? Do you have a system for directing problem content to appropriate people within the organisation?
  • How do you identify what content needs to be responded to and when negative content starts to become a crisis?
  • Are your processes effective? Are you sure: have they been tested? Are they up to date in terms of social media landscape and employee/agency contact details?
  • Do current staff with responsibility for crisis management have adequate understanding of social media and the crisis management processes and are they able to deliver them with available resources?
  • Are your current social media management tools adequate, especially your social listening and archiving tools? How are you currently moderating inbound and outbound comments, and what is your approach to interacting on social media accounts you don’t own (e.g. review sites)?

Once you have answered those questions you will need to undertake a “gap analysis” in order to identify what needs to be done to achieve your strategic goals for social media crisis management.

Step 2: Prepare

The team

Next, if you haven’t got one already, you will need to establish a multi-functional crisis management team. You might have people from social media triage, HR, sales, compliance, marketing and IT in this team. It shouldn’t be from a single department though as social media problems can affect all parts of an organisation.

You will also need a clear chain of command with a senior crisis manager who will confer with, and delegate to, other team members.

Another important team member is what I call the “triage nurse”. This is a person who is responsible for listening to social buzz, deciding what needs a response, and forwarding each post to the appropriate person to deal with it. They should ideally be “business function agnostic”, capable of recognising compliance issues, HR issues and security issues as well as marketing or PR issues.

You will need to ensure individual team members have appropriate training and skills as well as understanding that they have the freedom of movement to manage a crisis within agreed guidelines.

Scenario planning

In order to develop crisis management guidelines for people to work within, you will need to be aware of the most likely crisis scenarios you might face. Use your imagination as well as reading up as many case studies as you can to identify what these might involve. Typically, a crisis can be caused by things like:

  • Senior executives resigning
  • Inappropriate employee behaviour
  • Problems with products or customer service
  • Marketing failures such as non-compliance or astro-turfing
  • Security issues such as brand-jacking

Pre-prepared crisis content

You will also want to develop crisis management guidelines for how to respond to each different type of crisis including:

  • The process: where to respond, how to respond, how to maintain a “single voice”, when and how to escalate
  • The tone of voice you will use for different platforms (Facebook is likely to be different from LinkedIn for instance, while Pinterest will need a more visual approach)

One of the hardest tasks is to develop pre-prepared position statements for the early stages of each likely scenario, especially where the scenario hasn’t been faced before. Depending on the individual scenario, prepare content such as sincere apologies, an explanation of what has gone wrong, and statements that “the issue is in hand”. They won’t be exactly right when the issue hits of course, but they should save you time by acting as a sensible starting point.

Ensure an appropriate tone of voice is used by taking account of the cause of the crisis and the effect it will have on people. Are people in genuine danger? Are they merely being inconvenienced? Or are people simply laughing at you for some reason?

Technology

Once you have developed management guidelines you will need to ensure that the right technology is in place. This will include:

  • Appropriate social media management tools including listening, moderation, post management and archiving
  • A website that has the ability to host crisis statements in a way that is easy to access on mobile devices
  • Presence of your brands on all major platforms including YouTube, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook so crisis statements can be placed there
  • Appropriate security, including robust password protocols – just giving anyone access to the Twitter account is generally a bad idea!

Places and people

Another useful thing to do up-front is to identify influencers and important channels. Ensure the team has access to data about:

  • The most important social media channels and sites, in terms of their size and their relevance to organisation
  • The most important brand and industry influencers (e.g. bloggers, tweeters, specialist communities, activists journalists etc)

Step 3: Practice

Ensure the whole team has the opportunity to practise managing a social media crisis using a realistic scenario.

This does two things. First it tests the crisis process for each type of scenario to find out how effective it is. Is it up to date? Does it work in practice – for instance if an escalation process involves the CEO, is he available when needed?

Practising with a simulated crisis also exposes the team members to the reality of managing a social media crisis. They will see the speed a crisis can move at and experience the need to prioritise on different platforms. They will be exposed to the need to take individual decisions. They will discover the need to accept a certain level of personal abuse and not get upset by it.

The result

By planning for a social media crisis you should ensure that your organisation has the right tools and processes in place to manage a social media crisis. This involves a further six steps:

  • Listening to the social buzz and identifying an emerging crisis
  • Triaging posts (some dogs are best left lying) and directing content to appropriate team members
  • Maintaining transparency by acknowledging negative comments and even sharing them and asking for feedback
  • Responding to individuals and the audience at large with positive and helpful information
  • Resolving the problem, reporting this and asking for feedback, especially from customers who were affected
  • Reviewing the crisis and learning from it

More on those steps another day! But in the meantime, if you want help with planning your approach to social media crisis management don’t hesitate to get in touch with Mosoco’s social media risk team on hello@socialmediarisk.co.uk.

 

Social media risks: are you tooled up?

Angry customers dissing your brand; employees who give away trade secrets in their Facebook posts, chief execs whose Twitter accounts get hacked: The risks from social media are not always easy to manage. Even the well known risk of negative PR can be hard to manage if you don’t have the right social listening tools in place. The tools available to help manage social media risks go a long way beyond social listening, but let’s start with that.

Social listening tools

There are dozens of social listening tools available. Some of these are free. Some of them cost a modest amount, a few hundred dollars a year. And some can cost thousands. But they all do the same thing: identify what people are saying about your brand or company on social media platforms. So why pay, when there are so many free tools? Well, it depends on resources of course, and the importance of social media listening to your organisation. Some things to consider (beyond cost) when choosing a tool are:

  • Which platforms are monitored? There are a lot of tools that just focus on Twitter for instance
  • How much data can you get? Some tools will only give you results for a limited number of posts or a limited time frame
  • Is anything beyond a list of posts included? Some tools include analysis of sentiment (are the posts positive, negative or neutral) or potential reach; others enable you to filter the results by language, influence, demographics or region
  • Is the tool primarily a listening tool or does it double up as a content management tool?

Free multi-platform tools worth considering include Social Mention, Ice Rocket (especially good for blogs) and Google Alerts (you set up an email alerts so that  Google tells you whenever anyone uses your brand name, strapline or url).

Point of presence tools

Tools that can identify brand “points of presence” are similar to social listening tools although they perform a slightly different function. By a point of presence we mean a site on the internet that is, or purports to be, associated with your brand. Many social listening tools just listen for conversations and won’t be able to pick up sites that are using your brand assets such as your brand name, logo or strapline. If someone is using your brand assets this may be because they are a fan. But it may also be because they want to say unpleasant things about you, or to sell fake products. Having a tool that will identify when your brand name, logos and straplines are being used can be an important safeguard. Some tools can help you identify when your logo is being used while others will look for “strings” of text to find brands in URLs or social media profile pages. For a free way to identify places where your logo is being used, paste its image into Google images. To find your brand name in a URL, go to Google Advanced Search and select “in the URL”, within the “terms appearing” option. And to find mentions in particular social media platforms simply type in the platform name (e.g. Twitter.com) into the “site or domain” option of Google Advanced Search. Free tools have their limitations and a much more powerful paid solution that is worth investigating is provided by Brandle.

Moderation

If you are serious about posting to social media platforms the chances are that you already have a moderation tool. But if you don’t, then should you consider it? Moderation tools can help you prevent inappropriate posts by employees – for instance posts containing particular words can be flagged up for authorisation by a more senior person. This is a risk for companies that don’t have content marketing management tools in place, simply because without them it is easy for an enthusiastic employee to forget whether they are posting on their personal account or the company’s account. Moderation tools can also manage the risks that exist if your site accepts content from the general public, e.g. reviews or forums. It can be expensive to use a human to moderate all the posts that come in so automating the process to delete or quarantine any posts with unsuitable language can be a sensible investment. One company in this space is Discussit although if human moderation (which provides better risk management)  is also necessary, then a specialist firm like eModeration, which can moderate posts in many different languages, is also worth investigating.

Productivity

One of the big risks from social media is the potential loss of productivity that can occur when employees spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter. As preventing their use totally is likely to be counter productive, one strategy can be to manage their use possibly by limiting the times when access is available to social media platforms although tools like Websense provide more sophisticated management such as letting people use LinkedIn but disallowing job searches or letting people post on Facebook but not chat.

Archiving

Saving social media conversations in case of future legal actions is a sensible precaution if budgets allow (or if you work in a regulated industry where this is required). There are many archiving tools available and things to consider include:

  • Is the archive easily searchable and rapidly available?
  • Are actions (e.g. retweets) and metadata (e.g. tags) archived as well as original content?
  • Are “conversations” (forum threads, series of tweets etc) archived as conversations or individual posts?
  • Does all content get archived or can posts that are subsequently deleted become lost?

Archiving can be expensive and choosing the right tool isn’t easy. There is a comprehensive (probably over-comprehensive) list of options at USA’s National Archives; companies worth looking at include Smarsh, Hanzo Archive, and  Archive Social.

Security

One of the big risks associated with social media is inadequate security: having the corporate Twitter account hacked can be embarrassing but could also result in real reputational damage. Protection requires secure passwords – and yet according to SplashData the most common password is “123456”. Any social media account using that (or “password”, the second most common password) is ignoring some massive risks. Some content management platforms such as Crowd Control HQ can force certain password protocols on users of corporate social media platforms, making them more secure while at the same time providing an easier way to manage complex passwords.

Testing and practising

You can take a lot of time and effort developing ways of reducing social media risk. And you can invest in the best tools to help you with this. But unless you test your systems then you can still be wrong footed. To that end various tools are available that enable you to practise managing a social media crisis. These use a combination of software, content templates and real people to simulate a PR crisis over a number of hours or days which you can then respond to. As well as giving your social media team experience of what it is like to handle a crisis, your processes (any template content, together with management and escalation processes) will be stress tested and any weaknesses should be uncovered. A number of PR companies have developed services here. Check out Polpeo for an excellent example.

Disclaimer

We don’t have any formal connection with any of the tools and services mentioned in this post. They are all well thought of but there are many more out there, and the right tool for you will depend on your budget, your corporate and social media goals, and your particular circumstances. If you want some advice about what is right for you then call us on 07855 341 589 or email jeremy@socialmediarisk.co.uk: we would be happy to explore your options.

The 3 Ps of managing an online PR crisis

It happens sometimes: consumers react badly about a product feature, something you have said, or some brand imagery and the conversation goes viral. All of a sudden you are in the middle of  a PR crisis.

While this doesn’t happen that often, it is important to be aware of the potential for a PR crisis and take steps to be able to manage them if they happen: monitoring social media is a very effective way of identifying a possible crisis so that action can be taken before it happens.

Social media dashboards: social listening is a way to identify PR crises before they happen

Monitor social media to identify potential PR problems before they happen

Ideally you will be monitoring social media constantly – especially if you are providing a constant service such as an airline, internet service provider, broadcaster or bank.

If resourcing this is difficult in the UK, then potentially you could outsource monitoring outside office hours to an experienced supplier in a different time-zone. You will have to designate an employee (authorised to take appropriate action) to be on call for emergencies outside office hours in this case.

If you are not monitoring 24/7, then it is important to have someone responsible for checking for problems at the very start of each work day.

Be prepared! It is important to have plans in place to enable appropriate actions to be taken in the event of a crisis.

Getting a quick press release out is no longer likely to be sufficient. You need to be able to respond, rapidly, in the places where the crisis is building. This is likely to be Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.

Preparation involves the three Ps of crisis management: predictions, protocols and practice.

Predictions

The first thing to do is try to predict the possible things that could go wrong: a faulty product batch, sabotage, an unexpected senior resignation etc. That way you can develop some likely positioning statements.

This is really when the lawyers should be consulted: before a crisis happens so that during a crisis actions can be taken swiftly using  holding statements that have been pre-prepared to meet the most likely eventualities.

Protocols

You also need to have protocols in place for responses: rules for how you will react and the responsibilities of individal team members. These should include:

  • Key messages including apologising (if appropriate), saying there is a plan for dealing with the problem; and committing to find out the cause so repetitions can be prevented
  • Guidelines on tone of voice to be used in various circumstances
  • Team structures that allow decisions to be made quickly and then empower individuals to execute agreed plans
  • Using an external person to feedback an “outside view” of proposed actions before they are implemented

Practice

And finally you need to practice. Getting colleagues to fire awkward questions or comments at you is one way of doing this: it will help you get used to using the pre-prepared holding statements as well as giving you  practice in responding according to the protocols you have agreed. Ideally you will create realistic crisis simulations: companies such as polpeo.com specialise in providing realistic training in online crisis management.

Predictions, protocols and practice: these won’t prevent a crisis – but they should stop a crisis turning into a full blown disaster.

If you would like more detailed advice about setting up systems to help you manage potential online PR crises then please get in touch with us on hello@mosoco.co.uk, @mosocolondon or 07855 341 589.