Liz Wilson: Today’s guest post is by Marty Smith. Marty is a seasoned Internet marketer whose writing is always full of good advice. He’s very generous with his time and expertise. He’s in treatment for cancer but despite that he was happy to write for the community.

I follow his blog, ScentTrail, and when he wrote about companies who get into trouble on the Internet, I asked him to expand on it for us.

He did two pieces, one about how to do PR in a crisis and one on how to prevent the crisis in the first place. Part 1 follows on here, Part 2 is coming on Thursday. 

You may not know this, but Marty rode a bike across the US in 2010 to raise money for cancer research. Marty is one of the community. Let’s show him our support by visiting Martin’s Ride to Cure Cancer (and donate if you’d like to). 

He’s also creating the Cure Cancer Store on Facebook. It’s not open yet but you can ‘Like’ it too, if you want. Thank you!

Marty’s post

“People are going to say bad things,” is a common reason to keep social media at arm’s distance.

But we are past the social media marketing tipping point. A year ago your company’s absence from Facebook and Twitter might have been OK. Now it looks lonely and out of step.

Our mission today is to share tips, ideas and knowledge so your “fight or flight” lizard brain feels comfortable joining the most important marketing revolution ever, the revolution that isn’t going away.

5 Social Media Marketing Safety Tips to Quiet Your Lizard Brain

  1. Your Website Beats Their Websites Every Time
  2. Visualize Scenarios, Create Plans
  3. Understand What Authentic Does and Doesn’t Mean
  4. Hire the Right People
  5. Stay Calm, Carry On

Your Website Beats All Others

When a JetBlue employee went a little crazy one day opening an emergency exit, pulling the inflatable chute and jumping out of the plane on August 9 in New York, the Internet moved into high gear. In quick succession JetBlue moved from a typical Tuesday to a massive PR emergency.

At first JetBlue didn’t say anything. Their Facebook and Twitter pages blew up. Some social comments were coming from people who were on Flight 1052. Within moments of the event people were tweeting and adding negative comments to JetBlue’s Facebook page (view the Wikipedia timeline to see how fast CNN caught on).

JetBlue’s delay probably means JetBlue learned in real time about something every company needs in these social media times – a defined social media procedure, shared across the company that is practiced and drilled.

JetBlue came back stronger in the second innings by:

  • Creating a special blog post titled Sometimes the Weird News is About Us … asking for time before sharing details but with a link to CNN (so not denying what happened).
  • Requesting people on OPP (Other People’s Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook) move over to their blog to learn details and share reactions
  • JetBlue has received 243 comments on their “Weird News” post, many full of support and love for the airline
  • Many customers weighed in on JetBlue’s side against nasty Facebook comments urging restraint and reason (great to have customers protect your brand).

Websites exist simultaneously in several dimensions. Websites are defined by what THEY create and how OTHERS responded to those creations. The larger your site (larger here referring to people your site touches) the more it lives OUT THERE and the less control you have over your brand’s web presence. Control, in an Internet enabled, flat, global and fast world, is always more illusion than reality.

We don’t attempt to control the weather. There are too many variables and we know better. Our best hope with weather and Internet storms is predictive analytics, luck and our values and belief systems as expressed through our business processes. Read Dov Seidman’s great How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything for more on why your business processes are of critical importance in an Internet-enabled age.

Have a Policy

To avoid a JetBlue PR problem, draft a policy about where you want to have difficult conversations and who is in charge.

I suggest following JetBlue’s lead and moving tough conversations to your blog. Be sure to repurpose positive comments from customers across social channels with a Thank You. If a customer or customers ask people to calm down and give your company the benefit of the doubt it is much better than you asking for the same thing. Make sure any such statement is played across your social channels. Curate your social content. If something great is shared on Facebook promote it on Twitter, your site, blog and other platforms and vice versa.

“What if someone says a horrible thing on Yelp or some other platform?”

This is another common question. When a reviewer takes you to task on OPP (Other People’s Platforms) here is what you do:

  • Be appreciative of the feedback even if you disagree with the content.
  • Link to where you have a more detailed “discussion” set up on one of your owned properties such as your site or blog. Remember, you don’t “own” Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. THEY do.
  • Set up a “discussion” area on your blog or website, copy the negative review (or the parts that meet your posted guidelines) and post your appreciation for the information. Appreciation for feedback is NOT agreement.
  • Don’t be defensive. If you have previously published material such as policies and procedures that contradict the reviewer, RESIST using it. Respond directly to THIS incident on a human level.
  • Remember the 1:10:89 rule. 1% of visitors contribute, 10% will vote on the contribution of the 1% and 89% ride for free. This is why appreciation for the 1% is so important.
  • 10x Rule – The 10x rule says that for every person willing to raise their hand there are at least 10 others who feel the same. This is why a full and complete public airing of a negative review on a website you own is so important.

 Take it Day By Day

Day 1:

You need time for customers to come to your defense, so move the negative review to an owned property (like your blog), be appreciative and let everyone know you are working with the reviewer (if known) to resolve.

Anonymous reviews are tougher especially on OPP. Post your appreciation and link to your discussion board on Yelp, Facebook or where the negative review or comment was made.

On your property, the landing page where the OPP link leads, provide a personal email or phone number for the person who is upset to use. Don’t worry that this is a public forum and make sure the email isn’t a persona or a fabrication. Real people only in crisis.

Day 2:

Begin the process of resolution by sharing results of your investigation. Don’t present these results in opposition to the negative review. Present details that CONFIRM the review only at this stage.

If you find a contradiction especially of the point/counter point variety do more research and share the fact you are doing more research. Time is important to finding TRUTH. Don’t rush. Over communicate what you are doing at each stage. There must be movement every day in a crisis.

Day 3:

Hopefully customers have added counterpoints supporting your brand by this stage. Know that Day 3 is time to conclude and move on.

In summary:

Start with appreciation, summarize your research, identify dropped balls and admit them as such, change faulty procedures you discovered and credit the reviewer and let your customers know what areas you found that were divergent to the review.

Next: How to Avoid a Crisis in the First Place. Come back on Thursday,  or subscribe by RSS to get updates. 


Martin Smith
In summer 2010, Martin rode a bicycle across America to raise awareness and solicit donations for cancer research raising $30,000. His next cycling goal is to complete the Tour de France route in six weeks in 2015.
Martin leads Atlantic BT's team of Internet marketing specialists working with clients to solve Internet marketing business problems.
He is a serious blogger. His Facebook and Social Media Marketing post on Technorati has been seen by over a million people.

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11 Responses to “5 Social Media Marketing Safety Tips: Part 1”

  1. Scenttrail

    What Liz didn’t mention was this article started as a bit of a ramble (lol). LIz’s great editing is what makes Social Media Marketing’s Safety Tips read tight and fast. After LIz finished editing the piece made more sense, read better and was organized in ways that helped me learn new things. Can’t ask for much more from an editor/partner than that :).

    I love It is one of my favorite “do more with less” tools. Appreciate being included and asked to contribute. You guys ROCK!

    Martin Smith
    Director Marketing
    Atlantic BT
    Founder of the Story of Cancer Trust

  2. website marketing

    Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll
    just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your
    blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing.
    Do you have any tips for newbie blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.



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