Navigating Social Media is Like Surfing

Social media is great. It’s fun. It’s enlightening. It’s interactive.

But social media is like the ocean: you should assess your ability to surf before you dive right in. Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Be ready for the big waves.

The thing about “social” media is that it is just that – one big expanse of interaction that you have no control over. Nestle floundered on Facebook when attacked by Greenpeace in the deep end. Kmart got splashed around a bit by customers over a coupon snafu. On Twitter, Southwest Airlines was dunked – in a huge public forum - by a passenger deemed too large for the seats.surfboard.jpg

Every company should make an honest assessment of their vulnerabilities. Anticipate the negativity. Outwit the naysayers. Have responses ready to any possible attack.

This has always been part of a well-planned public relations effort. Before venturing into social media, tune up your public relations reflexes. Have your responses ready. Re-double your defense first, surf onto Facebook and Twitter second.

Being prepared will ensure that a calm, professional, well-measured and strategically appropriate response will prevail over a knee-jerk desire to fight back and challenge unhappy customers.

For example, at times feels the rumble of the anti-junk mail forces. After listening and understanding the complaint, we responded by implementing Project Green. Project Green outlines our concern about the environment and outlines clear procedures for handling junk mail: double-opt in mailing lists, a carefully compiled list of resources to stop unwanted mailings and a help desk. If's big wave comes – via social media -- we are ready.

Dove has gotten it right, and it is all in their tone. Dove pre-empts a social media disaster with a professional statement on Facebook reserving Dove’s right to remove comments that are offensive. There are many social media stories about companies that scored huge points with their customers by dealing with negativity in a concerned and expedient manner.

Here are my thoughts. Be calm. Remove the complaint from the public forum. Engage outside of social media. Can you call or email, listen and offer a solution? Have your answers ready. Stay vigilant, stay engaged, but do not co-opt the conversation. Implement a social media policy so that your staff understands what is appropriate in social media forums.

My husband loves to surf. Follow his advice to fellow surfers, whose abilities and ambition may be outwitted by the ocean: always keep your eye on the lifeguard tower.  |  digg it!  |  reddit reddit!  |  Google!

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