Twitter as a Tool for Damage Control

Forget TV and radio ads or corporate press releases and letters to the editor. Twitter has become the latest tool for reputation control. You might think the biggest reason to maintain a company Twitter account is marketing and public outreach. But don’t forget about the importance of damage control.

Polishing a Slipping Reputation

Your company’s reputation may never come under direct attack. Rather, you might suffer through a long, slow deterioration, or maybe you’re just not as loved as you feel you should be. How you handle these situations could influence how consumers view you.

Try being more engaged. A quiet Twitter account does little to help itself, as does an account that seems to ignore feedback. Respond to positive and negative comments alike. Clarify misinformation, answer customer concerns and thank users who interact positively with you.

Twitter’s reply option is a double-edged sword. Instead of responding directly to a critic (although that is still an option with direct messaging), your message takes the form of a public statement with the recipient merely a mention in the post. Keep that in mind to avoid risk, and use it to your advantage when you can.

You might even use incentives – like discounts for your Kevlar gloves or tips for finding the best medical practice websites – to keep your followers happy and to ensure they tweet positively about your brand. To maintain a strong reputation among Twitter users, many companies like Home Depot and J.C. Penny have offered coupons via tweets.

Managing an Actual Company Crisis

Your company will make mistakes, and Twitter will shine a major spotlight on them. However, Twitter can also amplify your apology, if you do it quickly enough. Ben & Jerry’s, for example, recently launched an ice cream flavor many considered to be racially insensitive. It’s “Taste the Lin-Sanity” flavor, sprinkled with crushed up fortune cookies, was meant to tap into enthusiasm for basketball star Jeremy Lin. Ben & Jerry’s felt the growing outrage and immediately tweeted an apology.

Like that company, you want to be swift. Tweet your apology as soon as you know you’ve screwed up. Sure, you risk your apology tweet bringing more attention to the controversy, but it’s better that you do it on your own terms rather than letting Twitter run away with the story.

Keeping One Step Ahead of the Naysayers

Twitter can be a major asset to your business, yet it can quickly turn on you. One bad tweet from some remote corner of the Twitterverse can snowball and land at your doorstep in the form of hundreds of angry tweets. That fact should force you to be proactive. Use Twitter’s search option, as well as secondary applications, to aggressively track how your company name is being kicked around.

And don’t just sit and stew about it. Do something. At the first sign of growing discontent, respond. If the source of the problem is a misconception, correct it early. Avoiding a crisis in the first place is so much easier than cleaning up after one.

Great Power and Responsibility

Spiderman’s Uncle Ben hit the nail on the head, even though he was talking about fighting bad guys – not tweeting company messages. You can reach a huge audience with Twitter, and you can make them mad at the speed of a mouse click. Companies have made some poor Twitter decisions (like when retailer Kenneth Cole prematurely made light of the Egyptian revolution a year ago) and they’ve screwed up by mistake (remember Chrysler’s inadvertent f-bomb insulting Detroit drivers?).

Discipline is incredibly important on Twitter; once it’s been tweeted, you’ve crossed the point of no return. Use discretion and avoid controversy.

How have you used Twitter to manage your company’s reputation? Please comment below, and let me know if you have any suggestions for getting the most from your company’s Twitter account.



Bio: Chris Peterson is a copywriter for Straight North, a leading firm for Web development Drupal Chicago services. Straight North develops strategy and executes marketing programs for clients with lead generation and e-commerce websites, and market regionally, nationally or internationally. Follow Straight North on Twitter and connect with Straight North on Facebook.

Image Credit: LarnerC,   LexnGerstepitupqueen

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