Think social media is not very important in your industry? It’s time to reconsider that assumption. While it may be true that people in your industry aren’t on Twitter every hour or posting Facebook updates constantly, that doesn’t mean social media can’t have a big impact on your business… sometimes in a negative way.

Consider the transportation industry, which is often the subject of conversation among the traveling public. In September, a Facebook user in West Virginia posted the following: “Warning. If you can avoid crossing the Pomeroy/Mason bridge, you should do so. The bridge is shifting and it was built on a sink hole. Pass this along to your family and friends.”

Within a short time, the rumor had spread, and it fell to the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) to dispel it. In addition to official statements, Scott Cadle, a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, stated in his own Facebook post, “the entire situation has taken valuable time from many officials, that could have been better used on important projects” (as reported in the Gallipolis Daily Tribune).

In response to this statement, Bill Wilson, editor of Roads & Bridges magazine said, “I really hope that was not the case, because I would like to think every DOT communications sector has some sort of social media emergency kit, one where all you have to do is follow the steps before hazmat suits are necessary.”

Being connected within your industry—and to the media—via Twitter and Facebook can help your company immediately reach all interested parties if a negative comment or rumor does pick up steam. Additionally, part of your company’s overall crisis communication plan should pertain to social media. Aspects of that plan, such as whom the company spokesperson should be and what the overall message is, also apply to social media damage control.

There are specific rules that apply to social media crisis response, too. Some of the most important are:

  • Post a timely, concise response to the negative comment. Customers like to see a quick and heartfelt acknowledgement when an issues arises.
  • If your team identifies an actual problem to be fixed, continue to post updates using social media.
  • Never become engaged in a back and forth social media battle. Keep your posts upbeat and professional.

Finally, don’t forget to use social media as a way to publicly thank and otherwise support those who have spoken out in your favor. Keeping positive conversations going can help counterbalance any negative comments your company has received.

For help putting together a crisis communication plan-before you are in the position to need one –contact Constructive Communication today.