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Just because your company doesn’t have a heavy consumer focus doesn’t mean you’re immune to social media attacks. Negative social media interactions can be kicked off by people outside your fan community and these conflicts can spread quickly if you’re not prepared, noted Intel social media strategist Ekaterina Walter during a panel discussion at the recent South By Southwest Interactive Festival. During the discussion, Walter explained how Intel handled a Facebook attack and shared the lessons the company learned from the incident.
- Realize that attacks can come from anywhere. Negative posts are a fact of life for prominent brands using social media platforms — and they don’t necessarily have to come from your own fan community. Intel faced a crisis last year when it drew the ire of groups that opposed the use of minerals mined in the Congo. Attack posts can increase the likelihood of your post turning up in a user’s Facebook feed, which can cause the conflict to affect your regular fans as well.
- Plan for the worst. The key to responding effectively to negative publicity is having a response plan in place internally and a comments policy clearly posted to your Facebook page. Intel’s policy is to respond to “the good, the bad, but not the ugly,” said Walter — meaning they’re fine with negative comments on their Facebook page, but won’t tolerate disrespectful attack tactics that violate their comment standards. Having clear standards in place removes ambiguity from the situation and allows your staff to react quickly and calmly, she says. Make sure your comment standards are written in plain language and specify that things such as inappropriate language and off-topic posts will be removed, she adds.
- Watch for warning signs. Do use social media monitoring tools to help keep an eye on your brand’s social presence — but don’t neglect to put someone experienced at the helm. An intern simply won’t do, said Walter. You need someone who knows the community, and understands what their typical behaviors are, so that abnormal posts draw a red flag quickly and can be given an appropriate response.
- Have a fire drill. Try setting up a dummy page on your internal network and practice responding to difficult questions and controversial posts. Experience will make everyone more confident and more likely to respond quickly, the panel noted.
- Know when to escalate. Don’t move directly from open communication to an emergency lockdown, says Walter. During Intel’s recent attack, Walter says she started off by removing offensive posts and posts that repeated the same message over and over. When the attacks kept coming, she encouraged visitors to move the conversation over to a post on the company blog that addressed their issues. Only when every other option had been exhausted did she shut down the comments feature.
- Your fans are your best defense. True fans can provide you with the most convincing, authentic response to an attack by arguing on your behalf. But your community won’t always respond to an attack, she notes. If your fans don’t respond on their own, it’s unlikely that any sort of rallying cry will change their mind, she adds.
- Take it seriously. Respond to legitimate concerns as much as you can, says Walter. Listen to your commenters and then go out of your way to over-communicate the company’s response. Don’t leave anything open to chance or interpretation, she said. “If [online activists] can overthrow the Egyptian and Libyan governments, they can overthrow your company,” said Buddy Media’s Michael Lazerow.
The original version of this article, which appeared on April 25, 2011, mistakenly attributed a quote in the last paragraph. The quote should be attributed to Michael Lazerow. SmartBrief regrets the error.