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Beyond 100 Days: Navigating the Social Landscape (& Landmines) in a Post-Election Era

White House - 100 Days

The first 100 days are behind us and community managers are still on edge. They sit in their respective command centers, plush and high-tech, with a dozen LED TV’s collecting data from every source and language imaginable at the speed of the web. Worldwide digital sonar at their fingertips but a sense of dread with each social mention. Did @SomeoneImportant just call us out? Were we just praised by the administration? Are people really boycotting our brand? This is the reality of today’s social landscape.

It seems 140 characters carry a ton of firepower these days and have been a staple of the President’s first 100 days. One tweet can tank the stock market, influence foreign policy and put the laser scope of public opinion on a target with a simple @ tag. Businesses need to have every scenario mapped out with processes that emphasizes readiness and agility.

Here are three real issues facing brands and organizations:

“How do we ID an issue before it blows up?”

Enable always-on, people-powered data analysis. Google alerts are antiquated. It starts and ends with a strong analytics and listening infrastructure. Mentions need to be analyzed and flagged in as close to real-time as possible, with complex queries and general search terms identifying potential crises (and amplification opportunities).

Technologies and listening software like Crimson Hexagon can easily be programmed to share actionable insights that highlight conversation topics, sentiment and more. Additionally, tools like News Whip Spike measure the ‘social velocity’ of a particular topic, breaking down new shares, tweets and other engagements an article, video or post is getting in a given time. This will help investigate why a particular spike is happening and whether the brand enters protect (or promote) mode.

A “people strategy” with actual analysts is imperative to deciphering data. This approach is merely table stakes for big brands in today’s social media wild west. While listening will produce and show “what” is trending and being shared, a contextual breakdown often proves useful and takes data analysis to another level.

Alas, the power of the primary. Deploying primary research for quantitative and qualitative insights answers the essential question of “why” a topic is catching fire.

Organizations should reassess their suite of tools, people resources and data analysis output to determine if they are truly poised to be ahead of the conversation.

“How do we respond if we’re mentioned?”

Scenario development and crisis planning should be at the heart of every community manager playbook. While response protocol will vary by industry, brand and category, these five rules of engagement ring true:

  • Build an organizational risk map. Developing a framework to assesses the severity of a potential crisis is imperative. This will help dictate an escalation strategy and specify management responsibility pending risk level.
  • Stick and move. A ”post-type analysis” framework will assist in determining what (and how) to respond. Identifying how to recognize and react to a troll, a constant critic, or even a competitor should be mapped out. While you may not react to 75% of mentions during a potential issue, choosing the 25% you do respond to is crucial.
  • There’s an unspoken golden hour in responding. A problem may manifest into a crisis due to timidity and letting an issue fester = loss of message control. Timing is everything on the social web and pre-authorization is key, we recommend responding within an hour.
  • Legal speak is weak. Consumers don’t want to hear a blanket legal statement from a brand. Being human in response on social channels is imperative. Organizations will find much success from sitting down with their legal and social teams to craft an appropriate and human response for each medium.
  • Resist the urge to delete. The internet never forgets, so consider how you can follow up with a statement that more clearly reflects your view point and addresses any mistakes. Unless a message is profane or truly offensive, think twice before you hit delete.

“How do we combat fake news?”

  • Corrections and clarifications. This comes down to preparedness and being ready to roll with a post or tweet clarifying misinformation with facts. It’s all about deliberateness of action and having the wherewithal to challenge fake with fact. The importance of the medium/channel by which you respond cannot be understated. A blog post can provide flexibility to highlight this “corrections and clarifications” approach with a longer-form examination of fact vs. fiction. If you’ve sent a response to a blogger asking to change misinformation, consider posting a version of your response within the public comments section. It’s important to always use the same channel as the original posts when posting a public response.
  • Evaluate Influence and Virality. Determining if a response is warranted is another factor to consider. Posts should be weighted based upon influence and virality (i.e. via News Whip Spike). The credibility of the author or outlet should be considered, as well as assessing the tonality of engagement said post receives. This is a tricky process as there are times when self-policing occurs within communities and users come to the brand’s defense.
  • Leverage your Advocates. Your fan base, employees and advocates are the ultimate defense in shouting down unfair criticism or false allegations. Once you respond, you’re in the game. It’s important that employees are cautious in what they tweet or share during this fragile time period. Media scour Twitter waiting for the next response from the administration and organization alike, hugging their F5 key hoping to find fodder for their next story.
  • Be informed. Lastly, it’s important to ensure your leadership charged with communicating to media hasn’t posted anything in the past that conflicts your organizational POV. Scan their social media channels for any inflammatory/conflicting commentary before they speak to media.

The game and the medium has changed but facts do trump fiction, every time. Preparedness, agility and challenging fake news with conviction is the ultimate defense in navigating an unpredictable landscape.

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