Standing firm in online storms

Ever face a true social media crisis? It can be ugly, brutish, and leave a long-lasting affect on your organization.

In that way, it’s not unlike one of the most popular television series of our times. Those of you who watch HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series would know this after seeing the show’s most hated king Joffrey Baratheon quickly lose control over his kingdom after beheading Eddard Stark in Season One.

The lesson: The king who ignores his kingdom in its time of need loses the loyalty and support of his people.

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Thanks to for the great image!

You see, it turns out that Game of Thrones can teach us plenty about how to manage a social media crisis. Similar to Joffrey Baratheon’s case (minus the war, backstabbing, and violence), ignoring your fans and followers on social media in times of need can have major negative effects.

We all know how essential it is to stay connected with our online communities – and this is even more important in difficult times — when a full on social media crisis hits. Honest, clear communication in tough times will help prevent a bad situation from getting worse — and it lets your community know that you’re genuine listening.

What to do during a Social Media Crisis

If your organization is facing a public crisis, there are a number of fundamental things you can do to keep things from getting worse, and to maintain the trust of your community.

  1. Don’t shut down. Carnival Cruises received a lot of attention when cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground. When this happened, they shut down their Facebook page instead of facing the negative comments posted by users or answering questions — that turned the situation into a full blown social media crisis. Not surprisingly, this caused further uproar.In these moments, it’s essential to keep the Page open and continue to engage with your community – tough as it might be. The truth is, it provides an extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate how much you care, how sorry you are, and what you’re prepared to do to set things right.
  2. Make it easy for others to keep talking to you. For most companies it’s a tweet or post rather than a major outside disaster that causes major problems. Companies such as Volkswagen faced a major backlash after being accused of deleting comments about their poor environmental track record. What can be worse than ignoring your audience? Taking away their voice. Let them speak and listen to what they have to say. Hiding from them, or deleting their comments with only make things worse for you.
  3. Recognize that you can’t control the conversation, you can only control yourself. Losing control doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Greenpeace learned this in 2007 when they asked users to vote for their favourite name for a humpback whale. The voting got out of control when social media sites such as Reddit encouraged their readers to vote for the (pretty awesome) name Mr. Splashy Pants (rather than some of the other rather lofty names that had been suggested). Greenpeace tried to nudge the voting back to some of the names that they preferred, and faced a serious community revolt as a result. What can we learn from this? When you ask something, expect an answer. And even when the answer isn’t what you wanted, you can still learn to benefit from it.

If you ever lose control over your social media page, don’t panic. To successfully make your way through a social media crisis, keep calm and remember that staying in touch with your community is the best thing you can do during this time. Instead of beheading, waging war, or responding rashly, read their comments (especially the negative ones) and respond to them in a calm and thoughtful manner. Don’t pull a Joffrey Baratheon on your audience.

Trefor Munn-VennBusiness Coach Ottawa Co-Leader of Rhapsody Strategies
“I think we all get in to business to make a difference. We want to do something meaningful. We want to support our communities, our families, or help others.” If I could provide one piece of business advice it would be this: Get clear on why you’re in business. We see a common pattern where people enter their career or launch a company to accomplish something fantastic — to make a real impact on others. But then they lose their way. Or maybe it would be better to say that they lose their why. When you’re clear on why you’re doing things, you have clarity about how to act and what to do. And your market knows what you’re trying to say to them and what you want them to do. It’s transformative when this happens.