Business Magazine

Three Rules For Handling A Social Media Disaster

Posted on the 18 July 2013 by Marketingtango @marketingtango

Social networks can serve as valuable tools in any integrated marketing campaign. As marketers, we dream of the sudden avalanche of free publicity that can result from a message going “viral.” Yet the rewards also come with risks.

Previously, we’ve written that the best social approach for a business to take in the wake of a natural disaster or tragedy is usually a respectful silence.

However, when handling a social media disaster, staying quiet is not necessarily the best policy. In fact, real-time response and decisive action is often critical to regain control of your message and reputation.

Although recent stories seem to indicate a particular vulnerability on the part of restaurants, negative social flare-ups can happen to any business, consumer-focused or B2B.

Taco Bell suffered a recent social disaster when a photo of a worker licking a stack of taco shells went viral. But Forbes reports that the fast food chain’s response to the “Taco Licker” incident appears to have reassured customers and restored positive sentiment about the brand.

What did Taco Bell do right? And what lessons can we learn from their experience?

1. Respond Quickly

The morning after the photo was posted, Taco Bell offered this comment in response:

“We have strict food handling procedures and zero tolerance for any violations. We believe this is a prank and the food was not served to customers. We are conducting an investigation and will be taking swift action against those involved.”

2. Act Decisively and Publicly

Taco Bell promised and delivered swift action. The offending employee was promptly fired and the company’s subsequent explanation satisfied most consumers.

According to Forbes, “Taco Bell’s handling of the social media crisis has been followed by a quick Buzz recovery for the brand among US consumers… Taco Bell quickly suspended the employee, who has now been fired, and ensured customers through its social media platforms and the press that the food was not intended for consumption, but was posted as a joke.”

3. Don’t Feed the Trolls

Don’t make the mistake of dignifying the haters (also known as “trolls”) who lurk on social sites. Their only purpose is to get you riled up enough to respond to their taunts.

After posting an initial response to the photo, Taco Bell got busy with its investigation. What the company didn’t do, was respond to every comment posted on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

In the case of Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro, it was the company owners, not the employees, who got out of control. Once they started feeding the trolls (responding to the hateful comments), they couldn’t stop themselves.

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