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How to stop a social media backlash

Handling a backlash

In the social media age, public backlash is routine for even the most cautious and ethical of brands. Perhaps it’s because people are more easily offended (how very dare you make such generalisations – ed.), or the ease of communication provided by platforms like Facebook and Twitter has emboldened consumers. Either way, you’ll want to limit or even stop potential media backlashes before they happen, if you want to carry on with an unsullied business reputation.

What do you need to do?

Proof your words before you send them out

Example: When Susan Boyle’s new album was released back in 2012, her PR team used the hashtag #susanalbumparty to promote the event. Whoever came up with the hashtag forgot to proof the tag resulting in the very rude message sandwiched in the middle.

That said, there are sceptics who have questioned whether or not her team did in fact notice the error and sent it out anyway, knowing it would make headlines and put Boyle back in the public eye. Either way, it’s a cautionary tale. Read everything you have written thoroughly before sending it out on social media. A blunder like that is just embarrassing.

Posting for the sake of it

Do you actually have something of interest to say or are you tweeting, updating Facebook, taking selfies, blogging and vlogging for the sake of it? If you don’t, it’s probably better to leave it for another day. Anything you send out there on social media will impact your image.

“You say it best when you say nothing at all,” Ronan Keating sang on the Notting Hill soundtrack. The lyrics apply to social media marketing: avoid the backlash by not saying anything.

Don’t try and control people

Mistakenly many marketers and PRs try to seize control of what people are saying about them on the internet. Ignoring negative feedback, hurling hateful comments back at customers and removing blog posts that cause offence are just some of the ways you might try to control a public image.

The issue here though is that people will rant regardless of whether or not you intend to reply or take down the cause of offence. Sometimes it’s better to just take a breather, allow people to get the vitriol out of their systems and apologise for any wrong-doing. Also, you can delete a post, but it’s quick and easy for your followers to Print Screen and store evidence of the deleted message. The internet really is forever.

Choose the right person to handle your social media

Many companies leave social media accounts in the hands of the nineteen-year-old intern. Here’s the problem with that: it’s probably their first job. They won’t necessarily be trained up to know exactly how to handle the vitriol that is sent to your business social media accounts, and therefore they will mess up.

Instead, make sure the person dealing with your angry customers is equipped to handle it – i.e has a few years customer service skill and common sense under their belt.

Have a sense of humour

Because you can’t control or police people efficiently on the internet, sometimes a well-intentioned promotional project will be yanked from your grasp and exploited for the entertainment of the general public. You may have noticed many of these instances on Twitter, when a hashtag is hijacked and turned into something else entirely. Robin Thicke’s hashtag #AskThicke, for example, backfired spectacularly when users used the tag to mock the star instead.

Take events like this with good humour. At the end of the day, Twitter is a lot like a school yard. If you laugh or join in with a joke at your expense, the bullies will lose interest because you didn’t lose your cool with them. Humour is potentially the most effective way to shut down a scandal. Plus, hashtag takeovers of this nature usually garner extra press attention.

Don’t ignore complaints

Limit the damage of a backlash by responding respectfully to the concerns sent your way. Ignoring them makes you look like you don’t care. According to a survey taken in March this year by Webhelp UK, only 15 per cent of the UK’s leading FTSE 250 companies respond to tweets from customers. So, just by humbly responding to concerns you will be one step ahead of 85% of the biggest companies in the UK – not bad.