Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Dark Side of Social Media?

Domino's nightmare holds lessons for marketers
"It's a PR nightmare scenario: A national fast-food chain has to respond to a video, spreading rapidly online, that shows one of its employees picking his nose and placing the result in the food he's making."

It's not a new story. Businesses and even charities have always had to deal with rumors of mismanagement, non-management, or criminal activity. There's even a saying attributed to Mark Twain, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” But in the wired world the lie can go around the world twenty times while the truth is trying to turn off the alarm clock.

What does this mean? It doesn't mean "stay out of social media." For one thing, it's obvious - as the news story points out - that "just about anyone with a video camera and a grudge can bring a company to its knees with lightning speed." Keeping your organization off the web won't protect it from malicious or irresponsible posters. It does mean, "stay vigilant." It means, "monitor the Internet for mentions of your company." It means " have a contingency plan in place to reply to this kind of attack." And it means, "get your story out first": if the social media sphere is already used to seeing your presence there, they are more likely to check your web site, your blogs, your Facebook/MySpace/
Twitter page for the accuracy of rumors, and to refute them.

Lessons everyone can learn from Domino's misfortune:

"• Monitor social media. Big companies must actively watch Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social sites to track conversations that involve them. That will help uncover potential crises-in-the-making, says Brian Solis, a new-media specialist and blogger at PR2.0.

"• Respond quickly. Domino's responded within hours. 'They responded as soon as they heard about it, not after the media asked, "What are you going to do?"' says Lynne Doll, president of The Rogers Group, a crisis-management specialist.

"• Respond at the flashpoint. Domino's first responded on consumer affairs blog The Consumerist, whose activist readers helped track down the store and employees who made the video. Then it responded on the Twitter site where talk was mounting. 'Domino's did the right thing by reinstituting the trust where it was lost,' Solis says.

"• Educate workers. It's important that all employees have some media and social-media training, says Ross Mayfield, co-founder of Socialtext, which advises companies on new media.

"• Foster a positive culture. Workers who are content and customers who like your product are far less likely to tear down a company online, PR guru Katie Delahaye Paine says. 'This would be a lot less likely to happen at places like Whole Foods.'

"• Set clear guidelines. Companies must have clear policies about what is allowed during working hours — and what isn't, Doll says. 'It won't prevent everyone from breaking the rules, but at least they'll know what the rules are.'"