Client Chronicles: Overcoming a Social Media Nightmare

By Monique Pouget

I’m going to tell you a spooky story.

It all started last month, on a day just like today. Leaves were not changing, it did not feel like a fall and San Diegans were taking advantage of dwindling beach days.

Apparently, I had social media crises on the mind.

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While Courtney’s awesome post had a ton of super helpful information about preventing a foreseen social media crisis, it didn’t list what to do if a social media nightmare came out of nowhere, and it didn’t address things from an agency perspective. That would have been nice, because we were about to experience this very situation later that afternoon.

So, here’s what went down. Some very disgruntled former employees decided to attack one of my clients on a variety of social media sites. There were Facebook Support groups, websites created to shun my client, and tons of CAPS LOCK. Lo and behold, a special someone at Thunder was the first to notice things getting cray.

With the goal of helping other agencies in the same sitch, here’s how we overcame a social media nightmare.

Monitoring Social Media Channels

In our client situation, we first discovered a single comment on one Facebook Page, but after some quick investigation, realized that the group had attacked over 100 different Facebook Pages and had set up several social media profiles and websites to explain their cause. Thanks to a few free tools like Hootsuite, Topsy historic tweets and Google Alerts, we were able to quickly identify the scope of the crisis, and figure out how we were going to move forward.

Pop, CAPS LOCK & Drop It

This seems pretty obvious, but you’re never going to be able to discover a social nightmare without actively monitoring social media channels, regardless if you’re participating on them or not. We’ve covered monitoring social media channels in various ways, but no matter how you do it, find a way to stay in the loop about what customers or colleagues are saying about your business on social media sites.

Notifying the Client

Next came letting the client know what was happening. Our client’s company is pretty large, and our point of contact is the social media coordinator. Since we’re pretty close to her, Georgia sent her a short email detailing everything that had happened. She responded and asked to jump on a quick call to review. It was here that we learned the group’s claims were unwarranted, and that they had come after our client before. Since we had been working on the campaign for upwards of 6 months, it was a bit surprising to learn about the situation in this way, which indicated a flaw in our intake process. More on that later.

Our client contact was super helpful, but she explained that many people were going to want to know more, including senior management and their legal department. She was also thankful that their agency (us!) discovered this quickly, within a matter of minutes. It definitely built trust between us, and we discussed briefing the rest of the team.

Briefing the Client’s Team

After our initial client call, we went back and did some more research. When were these groups and websites created? Where else had they posted? Why were they attacking our client? Was there any situation that caused this outcry? What could we do to move forward?

It was at this point that I got a call from the Vice President of our client’s company, since he wanted to know what was happening and why it was happening. I looked a little like this:

Image: rewfoe

After reaching some conclusions, the VP asked me to pull together a short one page brief that he could share with the entire team. I went to work on a one-pager, and came up with an explanation of what was happening, and most importantly, how to move forward and get past this social media nightmare. It looked something like this:

Image: Natalie J

The one page brief got everyone…on the same page, and we were able to successfully and uniformly overcome this challenge together. We even got this fantastic email from our client thanking us for our help during the crisis!

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Developing a Social Media Crisis Protocol

After handling this situation, it became apparent that we needed to have a plan in place for future social media crises, and not just for this client, but for all clients. We started integrating questions into the intake process that might reveal some of these issues from the start, so that we knew how to handle things when (not IF!) they come up. I love this post about a social media crisis plan, which was helpful for our team.

So there you have it! Definitely not rocket science, but hopefully still helpful for agencies in a similar situation. Have you ever encountered a social media nightmare, and how did you overcome it? Please share in the comments!

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  • I am dying from the “caps lock pop and drop it” pic. But seriously, way to go Monique! This is quite a heroic story! :) Thanks for sharing it.