As companies increasingly start to establish their online presence and use platforms like forum pages, blogs and even Facebook pages to engage their customers, crisis communications (or issues management) training is now a must. This is because the anonymous nature of the Internet makes unfounded attacks on the company a real possibility. These attacks can come from disgruntled employees, dissatisfied customers or simply online trolls. Regardless of who initiates the attack, a poor response can do serious damage to a company's brand and reputation. Unfortunately, avoiding an online presence is not an option as an online presence is essential to a company's viability and success.
One key element in the effective management of unfounded attacks is through the use of an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). This AUP should be prominently displayed on the company's forum and Facebook pages which tells users the "rules" for using the platform. The AUP should specify in detail what is not allowed and also state that failure to abide by the rules will result in the comment being deleted and the user banned from future use of the page. Users should also be informed that using the page is implicit acceptance of the rules and the platform owner's right to moderate the page.
Without the AUP, page administrators will find it hard to moderate unfounded allegations and ban trouble-makers. The trick to using the AUP well is not to totally delete negative comments, but to 'delete and replace' with a message telling the poster that his comment has been moderated as it breached whichever rule of the AUP. The poster is then invited to repost his comment in accordance with the AUP, but will be permanently banned from the page if he/she continues to post comments in breach of the AUP. This second step is important as it demonstrates that the company is not exercising censorship, but simply playing its role of maintaining a conducive environment for friends and fans to engage with each other.
In summary, while there are dangers with regards to companies embarking on a social media presence, the needs outweigh the dangers. Having properly trained social media managers who know how to manage social media platforms will reduce the risks.
Justin Fong, Principal Consultant at CW Fong & Associates.
CW Fong & Associates (CWFA) is a management consultancy that specializes in helping Singapore SMEs with their communication needs. Established in 2011, Justin and his team has consulted with close to 50 local and regional SMEs and assisted them to develop and implement branding strategies leveraging on social media. CWFA’s clientele includes multiple MNCs and government agencies, and also local celebrities for reputation management.
Justin can be reached at Justin@cwfongandassociates.com.