Zany Zoo Pets: This post is in regard to the recent news being…
+Commentary: Yes, this can happen to you to, and when it does you won’t be prepared. You can however take precautions & have a plan for mitigating the damage. Do you have one?
This is a good example, not great, but certainly better than 99% of the ones we’ve seen, the responses to comments both for & against Zany Zoo are good as well. There are a few things you can do in preparation, and certain pitfalls you can avoid in advance of anything going down in your comments section.
Outline of a Plan:
- Think about it. That is the hardest part, but imagine you are suddenly a trending topic. What would you do first? What is the most important thing?
- Plan for it. What to do first, breathe & listen. Do not react from a space of your ego, do not go full Amy’s Bakery on anyone, but instead react from a space of your business and taking the long look. Have a plan.
- Take care of business first. Make a short acknowledging statement, to be followed upon when you are not being reactionary. Institute several key elements first, to serve as release valves, and by all means let someone else who has a cool and level head handle the social media.
- Step away. This is the hardest part, especially if you are a Solo Entrepreneur or a brand unto yourself. Trusting anyone else is often the hardest part, but if you are a woman, a part of a marginalized community, and hence naturally a target for sexism, racism, or homophobia then overreacting at first to the echo-chambers that social media can create is not helpful.
- Overstimulation is a byproduct. Not everyone handles tough situations well, but expect in a situation like this, where you are “newsworthy” or suddenly infamous, there will be reporters, people piling on all your social media profiles (personal & public), and other avenues you’ve not ever thought of. Know how to tamp them down. But also you should have a redundancy plan in place for these interactions, there is valuable data there which can be useful in both your response and for future business decisions.
- Don’t subtweet or be oblique. That is the worst of all reactions, as well as having surrogates speak on your behalf, or mount defenses. This says to your followers or supporters that you would rather not respond, but more importantly that you don’t value them enough to say it yourself. The above example handled that well, but should have been followed up with a thoughtful short statement by Amy herself.
- Be direct, apologize if necessary, be sincere. This is the hardest part. Often the step that actually catches most up. You aren’t wrong, you’ve been wronged, or whatever the particulars of the situations, there is an apology that will help. You often don’t need to speak to those who are attacking you, but to those that support you. If someone has supported you or used your business, they deserve an apology and thanks for their continued support.
- Rely on Analytics. Social listening, benchmarking, sentiment analysis, and many other skills can be applied to help and not only quantify but to qualify the situation. Many do not get this part, because they never use Analytics in any meaningful way. It has both business guidance before/during/after a crisis. Tells you what works and where to focus the most of your limited attention.
That is the one thing the above example missed and is important. It is there, in the comments, but since it was one of the first comments we had to switch from ‘Choronological’ view to the ‘Top Comments’ in order to see them thanking people for their support. Facebook allows you to edit, they should have edited the original to include that at the end. They thanked supporters of Abbie but not the people who have shopped at their store or used the page previously.
What they did right was answer the allegations, the connections and severance, and then clearly outline the usage of their Facebook page’s comment system. This is key, but also should have been outlined from the start in the About tab of the page. So that any use here would be a restating of these ground rules. That is part of having a plan, of managing these ‘leased’ spaces on social media.
This is a news story that is tangential to the owner, when she was dragged into it by the behavior of her husband. Yet it could be an employee, or any other related connection. Some place you’ve spoken, or your art has appeared, an institution that paid you. They vary in both severity and connection. Which is why it is incumbent on all users of social media to build their brand, and to interact for not just personal but business purposes to have a plan.
If you owned a business, you’d have to know what to do in a fire, some sort of alarm system, an extinguisher, and so on. Insurance, and other considerations. This is no different. Figuring it out as you go is a recipe not only for lost sales, but lost social capital, losing followers, and debilitating your work for weeks, months, and sometimes years to come.
Deleting it all is not that answer, it is never the answer. There are varying degrees, and different decisions that happen throughout any process. You can’t change your name, username, etc… without knowing exactly what you are about to lose. That these things are interlocking to many other things.
What you shouldn’t do:
Read every tweet/post, Google yourself, obsess about all the bad press/coverage you are getting, and definitely don’t respond to them all. There is a time, and a place. In the heat of a meltdown is not wise. When the internet or media piles onto a subject they can quickly distort it, and what can blow over in a day or more as they move onto the next one, still requires that your response be inclusive of a longer view. Saying something that will stand the test of time.
Saying less sometimes is the best thing. Saying something larger or in context also helps. Each situation requires a different strategy, depending on a number of variables. This highlights all the ways one should and needs to consider a social profile. Social Media just lowers the barrier for people who just get kicks on being rude at such times. What will get lost, or avoided even are the people who support you. Not wanting to wade into a social media posting/tweet for fear of reprisals from those types.
Coordinated attacks, with loads of replies, comments, tweets will also set off a spiral with notifications, emails, etc… and that is the redundancy we spoke of earlier. Using the block button, reporting violent or abusive ones, and all of that is particular draining, as some part of you has to also see what you are reporting. Best left to a close adviser. Also another aspect people rarely think of is that when you don’t address it first, and with a direct short post, that all your previous posts or tweets can become overrun with the same troll behavior. This happens to brands on Facebook all the time.
Without a Plan & Professional How Will You Know What Works?
So knowing what and when to do things will help mitigate any adverse effects, but should give you a peace of mind as well. Having someone you can turn to that is outside perhaps of your loved ones, friends, and is versed as an adviser in these matters is crucial. Getting one at the last minute under duress, with very little relationship or authority usually involves negotiations under stress, which never work out well (see Paula Deen’s disappearing career & empire because she hired & fired several people & tried to do it herself), and only on TV and in Shonda Rhimes’ mind does a fixer like Olivia Pope of Scandal fame exist to ride to your rescue.
You won’t be able to afford that, but you should know or understand why Public Relations works. Know when to walk away. Know when to speak your piece, when to be quiet. Today social media is littered with meltdowns, statements that make things worse not better, and people who think they can do it all. Especially if the brand they are selling is themselves.
However when that brand is yourself, then you are forgetting the first rule of branding. Your brand is not what you think or say it is, but what people who buy/use/support it say it is. It is word-of-mouth, and when it seems like all that is being said is bad, then you just have to wait that out. It is mostly about how your brand makes them feel, and don’t forget that. That for those that are infuriated there is a silent majority, for many reasons who won’t defend you publicly or on social media. Branding, even under duress, is about creating that experience, most of which is not done in words, or directly.
So likewise, the choices you make, the things you do in the wake of such a firestorm, are equally as important as what you say. Many if not all brands & people get this part wrong. Watching as they don’t stop all marketing automation, or continue to cross-post stuff from their other accounts, is hard to watch. And the greatest problem with trying to get a robot to do your marketing, especially for microbrands.
The best thing you can do is have a relationship with someone you trust for business advice, a plan in place for what happens when a problem arises, from the smallest to the largest, and know that you are prepared for whenever a disaster might strike. It always happens when you least expect it, so don’t wait until it is problem costing you both money and time