This is a guest contribution from Mark Potter.
Greggs is the UK’s largest bakery chain, famed for its sausage rolls and steak bakes. They have always enjoyed a strong social media presence, winning a Digital Impact Award in 2013 for a ‘Sandwich Maker’ Facebook app.
As a relatively low-budget food chain, they are a popular target for online abuse. As a result, they have already developed a robust strategy for dealing with complaints and controversy:
Things turned particularly sour in August, when the Google algorithm accidentally replaced the official Greggs logo with a highly offensive fake version. The gaffe spread like wildfire across the internet, and the Greggs Twitter account was rapidly inundated with tweets.
However, the social media team kept their cool, and handled the crisis with aplomb. Almost 300 tweets and a new hashtag later, the correct logo was restored – and Greggs had emerged as a Twitter champion.
Here are some tips on handling a crisis on Twitter, as demonstrated by the social media team at Greggs:
Rise Above It
The whole internet is teeming with trolls, but Twitter is a particularly virile breeding ground. Although many people sympathised with the situation, Greggs was also subjected to a fair amount of abuse.
When Twitter catastrophe strikes, never stray from the Golden Rule – DON’T FEED THE TROLLS. Hitting back with an angry retort can only ever backfire, making a bad situation worse. Make like Greggs by responding in a polite, classy manner – or simply don’t reply at all.
Crack a Joke
Twitter partly revolves around competitive comedy – the accounts with the funniest tweets often have more followers. Therefore, humour can be one of the best ways to divert a Twitter crisis.
However, before making light of a disaster, you should always use discretion. In some situations, comedy is inappropriate – as many brands soon discovered during Hurricane Sandy.
Hire an Expert
Twitter disasters are occasionally brought about by the company itself – as with McDonald’s ill-conceived #McDStories. However, as Greggs discovered, crises can also be caused by external forces. These unpredictable situations are perhaps the most dangerous, as many companies don’t have the resources in place to deal with them.
If social media forms a large part of your marketing plan, you should hire a professional social media consultant to manage your online image. As many people noted during the Greggs debacle, they’re worth their weight in gold when disaster strikes.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Ellen’s infamous Oscars selfie is currently the most retweeted message in the history of Twitter. This highlights the importance of imagery on social media. Pictures are far more likely to be shared by followers, and are therefore invaluable to social media marketing campaigns.
As Greggs demonstrated, pictures can also prove helpful during a disaster. This simple shot cost next to nothing, yet received an incredible 83 retweets and 589 favourites – making it one of the most successful tweets Greggs has ever posted.
A follow-up tweet, posted when the correct logo had been restored, garnered a similar number of favourites and retweets:
Monitor for Mentions
It goes without saying that you should reply to direct questions and comments on Twitter. Throughout the crisis, the official Greggs account was inundated with questions and comments – and each one was met with an appropriate response.
However, not every tweet about the situation was directed at Greggs. The social media team was forced to go a step further, proactively ‘butting in’ to other people’s conversations about the debacle.
If you have an online presence, sign up for a monitoring service such as Google Analytics or Topsy. These automatically scour the web for brand mentions, notifying you when people are discussing your company online. If you see a comment – whether defamatory or positive – about your business, you will be poised to reply and set the record straight.
No two Twitter debacles are the same. However, by studying the reactions of different companies to their own crises, you will be able to respond effectively when disaster comes knocking at your own door.
This article was written by Mark Potter of Namecheap.com, a leading ICANN accredited domain registrar and web host.