Are You Prepared for a Social Media Crisis

Social Media Crisis

The Altimeter Group recently released the report Social Business Readiness: How Advanced Companies Prepare Internally as a study into how companies prepare for the increasing likelihood of a social media crisis. Altimeter’s research focused on the social media crisis which occurred since 2001 finding 76% of them could have been avoided or minimized with the right preparations.

Altimeter’s research examined companies considered to be advanced in social business and their preparations for or ability to avoid a social media crisis. Given the accelerated us of social media on campus within core services, meaning higher education’s adoption of a social media business model, the possibility of a social media crisis arising is something that should be expected and planned for.

CIO’s Job

CIO’s have a real opportunity here to continue strengthening their leadership on social media strategies for their institution by understanding the implications of the report as it might apply to their organization. CIO’s should see this as a way to proactively develop a plan for handling a social media crisis on campus in partnership with the marketing and public relations departments.

To that end, CIO’s will find a lot of great ideas for developing a plan for handling social media crisis once one has occurred including ways to avoid making it worse. But the more valuable insights offered in the report are the ideas aimed at strengthening existing social media policies and increasing awareness of social media uses through education and improved cross functional governance. Altimeter’s approach uses a simple idea of a Social Business Hierarchy of Needs pyramid mimicking Maslow.

Pyramid showing hierarchy of needs for social media planning

As a closing thought, in preparing this post I attempted to locate examples from higher education of social media policies or plans that might include social media crisis but I came up empty. As I suspected lot’s of social media policies or plans exist but they are oriented more towards acceptable use. Any focus in those plans on crisis management was about how to use social media as a communication tool in crisis management. Nothing though on what to do when the crisis is social media. So, if you have an example or develop one in the coming weeks, I would appreciate a link to it just so I can see what people are coming up with. TIA.

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9 Responses to Are You Prepared for a Social Media Crisis

  1. Jerry,

    We are seeing more and more need for social media ‘management’ especially in the area of damage control and negative press. Whether that is for the college/university at large or for specific areas of study within the college/university. In the past, if a person was dissatisfied with a grade or an organization on a college, the only outlet they had was to tell their friends, parents or school administration. So no more than maybe 10 – 20 people would ever know that someone was unhappy or disgruntled with an event.

    With the invention of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) one person can not only tell 10 – 20 people but can now tell literally MILLIONS of people with a single tweet or posting on a social media site. This one posting, i.e. “United breaks guitars – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo” reached over 6 million people within a very short period of time and created a major impact on United’s ticket sales and customer satisfaction issues.

    The impact of social media is not unmeasurable but the issue is what to do about negative or less than positive comments. The company that I am currently working for, Contact Centers of America, in conjunction with a leading social media monitoring company are in the process of rolling out not only an analytical program for social media but also a program that will allow us to respond to or escalate comments discovered during our daily analysis for companies, colleges/universities, and other possibly political groups.

    As the social media phenomenon continues to grow, if a business or higher education institution does not have a social media marketing and response program, there can be a huge impact on their enrollment, customer satisfaction, and other key factors that could inhibit them to grow or even maintain their reputation in their respective markets. If these entities don’t have a social media response team or marketing team, this could be a major detriment to their long-term sustainability.

  2. Richard you are so right. I do love the United Breaks Guitar story but my real favorite example is Cancel AOL which has lots of copycats for various phone services and cable companies. For higher education we also have Taylor Univsity “Moodle” video done by students slamming BlackBoard. Entertaining until they happen to your organization.

    I am also intrigued by the possibilities of using social media monitoring tools to detect flash mobs ahead of time and intervening before they assemble.

  3. Jerry,
    As you are aware, I worked over a decade in support of many higher education institutions while employed with a large managed services and ERP software company and I have seen what just simple word-of-mouth can do to an institution’s reputation or even what negative comments can do to the reputation of the Information Technology group on a campus. Whether they are accurate or not, you have to defend or deflect those comments in some manner. I can only imagine what an institution could face if a comment or video went ‘viral’ about their recruiting, enrollment, registration, financial aid or other processes that a potential or, even more so, a returning student deemed violated their efforts to get assistance or clarification on a problem or process.

    Not only is It be good idea to some level of response capability or escalation process in place to address these situations in a reasonable manner, I feel that it is a true necessity given today’s social awareness to have a social media policy, process, marketing and response team in place or find a partner to assist you in that effort.

  4. Last paragraph should have read – Not only is it a good idea to have some level of response capability or escalation process in place to address these situations in a reasonable timeline, I feel that it is a true necessity given today’s social awareness to have a social media policy, process, marketing and response team in place or find a partner to assist you in that effort.

  5. Tim Marshall says:

    As part of assessment activities I performed for a number of colleges and universities, we would search social media sites for examples of what was associated with the institution. My favorite discovery was at a college where a number of students lampooned the organization (and in particular the computer services help desk) with multiple videos that were in the format of investigative reporting. None of the college administrators were aware of the youtube videos, which had been available over 6 months, and had quite a number of hits. Needless to say, the discussion at the table quickly turned to “how do we deal with this”?

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