‘Social 911’ Prevents Brand Disasters

By Rohit Kapoor

Social media can be a tremendous asset to brand-building efforts, allowing companies to directly interact with customers and “spread the word” much quicker and more cheaply than they can via traditional communication means. However, social media’s effect on a brand can also be, in a word, disastrous. Just in the past few months we have seen several examples of companies that made branding gaffes whose negative impacts were magnified many times over as a result of social media commentary that spiraled out of control.

At Capgemini, we offer a social media disaster recovery service we like to call “Social 911.” At its most effective, Social 911 allows companies to detect potential social media branding disasters in their earliest stages and stamp them out before any real damage is done. I will briefly review the principles behind Social 911 and explain how it ensures social media serves as a brand enabler, rather than a brand destroyer.

Social Media Disasters Can Be Painful, But Avoided

Earlier, I mentioned how there have been some high-profile cases of social media disasters in the not-too-distant past. Without calling anyone out or criticizing anyone, I would just like to give two quick examples of how well-known companies received significant damage from social media gaffes that went viral before they could be contained.

The first example is a digital content provider that experienced a deluge of negative social media commentary and criticism when it announced it would change its fee structure. People complaining about the fee changes on social media sites spiraled into something that had a major negative impact on the company’s business, with tens of thousands of  customers abandoning its digital content delivery service. The company partially reversed its fee changes, but the damage was done.

Another major social media disaster occurred when a financial institution announced it would start charging fees to customers who used its debit cards. The volume of social media conversation around this institution increased 200%, but it was centered around complaints regarding the debit card fees. The organization was forced into an awkward and embarrassing reversal of the planned policy.

In both cases, these disasters could have been avoided with some simple advance planning. By performing small tests on social media platforms with focus groups, these companies could have discovered the extreme consumer sensitivity to their planned changes ahead of time, and simply not gone through with them, avoiding considerable brand damage. This is the best type of social media 911 of all, preventing the emergency before response personnel even have to be brought in.

Social 911 is a 24/7 Process

First and foremost, Social 911 is a full-time process which Capgemini manages from command posts in Guadalajara, Mexico and Dallas, Texas, with a new center set to open in Poland covering the European languages. Trained social media experts use a combination of manual review and sophisticated IT-enabled analysis to constantly monitor Twitter, Facebook, and all other significant social media platforms for any commentary or other trends which may signal a potential threat to the brand image of a client.

Once a potential threat is discovered, we take immediate action to get ahead of it before it goes viral and causes lasting damage to a client’s brand. Specific actions depend on both the nature of the threat and the individual client. In some cases, such as when a complaint or issue is of a highly technical nature, we will escalate the issue immediately by having a subject matter expert from the client respond via social media, clearing up any misunderstanding and closing the loop.

In other cases, such as where the threat may be lower level or less technical in nature, we will have our own social media advocates, who have received extensive training in skills such as public relations, defuse the situation.

In all cases, Capgemini has preset guidelines for actions for each individual client. The process begins by obtaining a full understanding of what kinds of social media conversations typically occur around the client’s brand, products and services, as well as what types of issues are likely to arise, and which ones require immediate escalation and/or response and which ones may be better served by closely monitoring before taking any action.

Rohit Kapoor is Senior Director and Principal, Capgemini BPO

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