What social financial advisors can learn from Hurricane SandyArticle added by Amy McIlwain on November 2, 2012
Amy McIlwain

Amy McIlwain

Denver, CO

Joined: August 26, 2010

Just as the torrents of a hurricane can tear through the coast and destroy in moments what has taken a lifetime to build, so can a social media disaster destroy customer relations and obliterate brand equity that has taken years to develop. Social media is a powerful tool, but if it’s not managed properly, it can become one of the greatest downfalls of a business.

Hurricane Sandy has been described as a “Frankenstorm," leaving over eight million people without power and cancelling over 15,000 flights. When it's all said and done, Sandy will end up affecting approximately 60 million people in one way or another.

As many of us know, Hurricanes are severe, rotating tropical storms with heavy rains and cyclonic winds. Most storms see their winds diminish quickly upon landfall, but Sandy continued with tropical-storm-force winds through Wednesday, according to The Guardian. When such crisis situations arise, the NOAA provides people with a hurricane preparedness guide.

There are similar steps that you, as a social financial advisor, can take in order to prepare for and head off any social media disasters. Parallel to the devastating effects of a treacherous hurricane, a social media disaster can have a negative impact on business for a long period, reaching hundreds and thousands of customers. In fact, did you know that, according to the Social Skinny, 83 percent of socially savvy consumers have walked away from a purchase in the past year after a negative customer service experience, compared with 49 percent of everyone else?

The structure of the hurricane preparedness guide can unquestionably translate over to your social media strategy. Here are three valuable steps you can take when a social media hurricane occurs:

Step 1: gather information

Hurricane victims must prepare by knowing their environment and foreseeing potential vulnerabilities. Businesses must take the same course of action when it comes to social media. Understanding your audience, opportunities and weaknesses on the social platforms will help you to foresee possible shortcomings or weaknesses. For example, if you anticipate heavy Facebook traffic during a specific period, you should monitor conversations closely to assess positive or negative sentiments during those times to limit negative exposure and to rectify any customer questions.

Step 2: plan and take action

During a hurricane, everyone must be prepared for the unexpected. Having a supplies kit and emergency plans for health, environment and evacuation could end up saving your life. Businesses also need to create a social media policy as an emergency kit for crisis situations. Thirty-nine percent of companies do not track their social media responses at all, and 55 percent ignore all customer feedback on Twitter and Facebook, largely because they have no process in place to respond (AllTwitter). The policy should be clear and straightforward about what is allowed for employee and company profiles. There should also be distinct rules on language and how to respond or comment.

Step 3: recover

After a natural disaster, it is best to wait for an area to be declared safe before returning, and it is usually a gradual process. The recovery is an important step for preventing social media disasters because you cannot always foresee or prevent issues from arising, but you can control how your social media reacts to those situations. Be sure to have a recovery policy that is well defined with the steps to be taken under various instances so that everyone involved knows how to react and problems can be brought to a close with little negative impact. If you put a fair amount of thought and energy into this process, you can have the ability to turn a potential disaster into a shining example of how your company cares for its customers and audience. Here are a few key rules to follow for the recovery procedure:
  • Only 44 percent of customer questions on Twitter are answered within 24 hours and 56 percent are being ignored altogether1. Make sure you respond to negative activity directly and quickly. Timing is of the essence here; don’t waste it.
  • Auto-posting to Facebook decreases likes and comments by 70 percent2. Responses should be personal. Sending an auto generated response might as well be a slap in the face, so make sure they know you are listening to them and genuinely trying to help them in their situation. Eighty-three percent of people who complained on Twitter loved the responses from those companies that did make the effort1.
Just as the torrents of a hurricane can tear through the coast and destroy in moments what has taken a lifetime to build, so can a social media disaster destroy customer relations and obliterate brand equity that has taken years to develop. Social media is a powerful tool, but if it’s not managed properly, it can become one of the greatest downfalls of a business. When used with purpose and intent, it can hoist your company to the greatest heights and is one of the best possible marketing and customer relationship investments.

1Source: The Social Skinny

2Source: Hubspot
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