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Social media disaster recovery: A first responder's guide

Serdar Yegulalp | Nov. 9, 2011
Every new technology brings with it the capacity to screw things up in an entirely new way.

Third step: Learn from your mistakes and make future plans

Many social media gaffes illustrate a lack of process -- whether it's a triage process or one for developing a social media strategy in general. If you're currently cleaning up a mess, now is the time to learn from it and develop a solid policy, along with a set of procedures.

One thing that does not work -- or that works at a terrible cost -- is trying to get out of social media entirely. "There has lately been a backlash of regulated organizations taking social media away entirely from their staff," says Sean Corcoran, a senior analyst on the interactive marketing team at Forrester Research. "The impact of that is many millennials are leaving the better companies because they don't have the tools of their trade to share with peers, perform decision-making and so on." Plus, a company that doesn't use social media might soon seem as backwards as one that doesn't use other business tools like CRM or content management systems.

If you have no social media policy in place, develop one. As a starting point, you can look for examples from other companies. Chris Boudreaux's Social Media Governance site has a database of social media policies from a variety of different organizations, some of which could serve as models for your own.

DiMauro makes a point of how a social media policy should be a reflection of each company's individual position and needs. "Social media policies need to reflect the culture and risk tolerance for that company," she says. For example, a plan that has been developed for a medical or financial company will probably be more conservative than one for a software company "since they take regulation into account."

Apart from risk tolerance, she cites corporate culture and technology skills within the company as major influences on policies. She offers as an example a social media response chart developed by the United States Air Force; the chart can also serve as a good model for future response plans.

One way to limit future mistakes is to assign social media to people who have been specifically trained in it, not simply those who seem right for the job because they have a Twitter following or a recognizable public presence. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who was a celebrity voice for disability insurer AFLAC, not only appeared in TV spots for the company, but had access to the company's branded Twitter account. When he tweeted a number of crude jokes about the quake in Japan (where AFLAC has a major business presence), Gottfried was let go and the company quickly issued an apology (in this case, as an official press release) and cast for a replacement.


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