The social media communications revolution is already happening and organisations need to ensure that they are reacting efficiently to this important development in communications.
While in many cases we can take advantage of the opportunities that social media offers, there are also some significant disadvantages including the micro-crisis. Take for example the case of Beeston Wilkos, in summary the shop is due to close shortly due to redevelopment and the local community is upset due to the loss of jobs and one of the town’s favourite shops. Previously for a situation such as this a letter to the local paper and small petition would suffice, but today we see blogging armies and social media swarms. And this is how a micro-crisis is caused.
In the case of Beeston, local blogger Beestonia has taken up the campaign, taking charge of updating the local community of developments not only of his campaigning but those of the local council and Wilkos Head Office. This has resulted in huge local community support, with 3000 signatures on the petition, and coverage from local media.
How should Wilkos be responding to this issue? I would guess that they did not anticipate such a fight back from the local community, and we cannot expect a large organisation to understand the significance that they have in each of their stores, it is not practical. However, I dare say their reaction to this case is not ideal. For example at the moment the most reliable source for information on on the situation is Beestonia, in fact while trying to search for a statement from Wilko’s Head Office I found myself on the Beestonia blog! Other than finding a quote about their commitment to their Beeston store, there is very little official Wilkos presence.
It is important to remember that while this situation may feel like the end of the world for Beeston residents, it is just one of many issues Wilkos will currently be dealing with, however there are actions that they can take to improve relations in Beeston. For example, I would suggest that they work with the Beestonia blog to release information, correct any speculation or incomplete information on the blog and engage with their consumer. An example of an organisation doing this well can be seen on Michael White’s blog, he wrote about his dissatisfaction with the services of CIPR student membership, the CIPR promptly replied, reacted to his opinions and as a result have already increased their student membership numbers. All of this occurred while the Wilko’s story has been happening, which shows just how quickly social media allows you to react.
Dealing with a micro-crisis requires much of the skills of dealing with larger crisises, here are five steps that can be used to help manage the situation:
- Anticipate a crisis and be proactive. This is the ideal situation, although not always practical. However if your organisation is about to carry out an action that may have adverse reactions (think Tesco workforce) then it is best to already be prepared to explain your actions before people react negatively to them.
- Monitor social media. Use the wide range of tools that allow you to see what is being said about you online, this means that you will be able to get an idea of current issues and how your customers’ currently think of you. As a result you can spot micro-crisises in their early state and quickly react.
- React quickly. If you can help it do not allow a situation to escalate, try and deal with it at an early point.
- Communicate with bloggers. Bloggers have a lot of power online and this means they can be your best friend and worst enemy. In many cases bloggers like to share stories that will interest their readers so they will often be open to hearing from your organisation. You can also use their comment section to engage with their readers, by reacting to their comments.
- Have a social media presence. Social media has become the first place many people turn when looking for local news, as a result it is important in a micro-crisis to use this platform to engage and react to your local consumers. This can help avoid the dangerous speculation which is likely otherwise.
Consumers now expect organisations to have a social media presence and to react to their problems, something Claire Hodson wrote about recently. I think it is important not to disappoint them in this respect, never underestimate how powerful social media is and it can be used for the good, and bad of your organisation.
- What’s happening to the local Wilkos? (rachelbarkley.wordpress.com)
- Wilkos: A Worrying Development and a Presentation (beestonia.wordpress.com)