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Radio Silence: How NOT to Manage a Social Media Crisis

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Filed Under on September 19th, 2014

What would you do if you were waiting 8-12 hours to enter a festival you paid hundreds of dollars for only to be told you could not enter that day? That’s exactly what happened to hundreds of people recently as they tried in vain to enter the Phases of the Moon Music & Art Festival in Danville, IL. You can imagine how frustrated and disappointed people were by the news considering the missed bands and major investment in the weekend.

What did the people do? They ALL turned to social media to voice their opinion and demand answers. Where else would you turn for answers on a rural highway surrounded by hundreds of other confused and irritated people? Almost immediately, an overwhelming amount of updates exploded on social media and comments got heated. Despite heavy interaction, the festival social media sites continued to ignore the issue. Big mistake.

Very bad weather had caused the park to become too muddy to accommodate all the vehicles and campers. Unfortunately, nobody waiting in line knew that at the time. The only social media updates consisted of highlights of the bands playing, which you can imagine only enraged those who were still waiting in line.The ticket holders in line were not informed until late in to the night before a social media post was made acknowledging the situation at hand.

Even though the weather threw a major curveball, communication and acknowledgement of the issue should have been considered paramount. Silence only served to worsen the problem. A lack of acknowledgement of the dilemma upset concert attendees more than the actual core issue of being unable to get inside. While many attendees were sympathetic to mother nature making things difficult, the perceived lack of empathy took its toll.

The vacuum of communication inevitably led to the creation of a fake Twitter account called “Phases of the Fail,” which began retweeting everyone’s frustrated tweets. This was highlighted by the “The 5 Phases of Phases:” 1) Denial & Traffic. 2) Anger & More Traffic. 3) Bargaining on Social Media. 4) Depression. 5) Acceptant of Shuttles. Fortunately, things eventually settled in the following day and festival goers enjoyed a fantastic weekend of music and art.

What can we learn from this and how could some of the frustration been mitigated? Communication is absolutely necessary even when you don’t have good news to share, especially when an event is happening in real time and your customers are counting on social media to guide them in the event of something unexpected. In a crisis situation, people want to know that you’ve recognized a problem and are working on a solution.

Customers have a bigger voice than ever before. Always be prepared to utilize your social media tools as a real-time thread of communication to your constituents. People want accurate information and a narrative that’s sympathetic to their needs. Whether it’s good or bad news, it’s imperative to be honest and quick to respond when in crisis management to ensure the best and most accurate information is shared widely.

People will take to social media to make their voice heard whether you like it or not. As the social media manager, you can either guide and assist that narrative, or let it run you over like a truck. Don’t be a victim of the next hit and run social media crisis; be prepared and reach out to your audience when they need you most. Plan for the unplanned.


Mo Carter

About The Author

Mo Carter has been riding the social media roller coaster since 2005. As the social media specialist at Nerdwerx, she is responsible for managing social media campaigns and blogging her little heart out. The St. Louis native turned Quad Cities staple graduated from St. Ambrose in 2006 with degrees in Communication and Journalism. Mo is also a singer, acoustic guitarist, and ukulele player extraordinaire who performs around town. When Mo isn't busy making music or status updates, her time is consumed with live music concerts, hanging with her man, and kickin' with her small army of amazing friends for a night out on the town.

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