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5 Ways to Mitigate a Social Media Boycott

Posted in: Communication, Digital communication, Online Safety, Social Media in Crisis Management Started by

5 Ways to Mitigate a Social Media Boycott

In the world of social media, Goliath has to face hundreds of Davids, armed with tweets, posts, links, and hash tags. If Goliath could not defeat a single David, can you defeat hundreds of Davids?
Have you heard of Change.org and its myriad of online activists who have considerable skills in organising on social media? Are you under the illusion that your company is free from a potential social media-driven boycott? Think again. Resort World Sentosa in Singapore woke up to realise that thousands of activists around the world did not welcome their plan to use dolphins for entertainment at the recent resort in Singapore.

If it could happen to an resort, I bet it can happen to you. It can happen to anyone in todays world. It all depends on where you stand on social issues and how you understand the under currents of today ‘s social media. In this post, I am outlining 5 ways or steps you can tame the beast ie steps you take to minimise your exposure to the impact of a boycott in today ‘s fluid world of invisible forces.

1. Listen to your “tribemen”
Think of yourself as a missionary serving a community thousands of miles from home. As a foreigner, you have to listen and cooperate with them, else, they can take you down. These days your customers can plot against you on social media. The good news is, it is lot easier to listen with tools like google alert, social mention and hootsuit and many others. By listening, you can determine how to intervene before you crash and burn.

If United Airlines had listened to a Dave Caroll, the company would not have ended up in a tough critic who went on to publish a book titled “United Breaks Guitars.” This has generated negative publicity for the company and unnecessary attention. Guess who celebrates your failures? Your competitors are happy to take your angry clients.

2. Speak their lingo
As a missionary, if you do not speak the language and lingo of your tribe, it will be more difficult to connect with them. For this reason, it is prudent that you understand the way social media works: the fans, followers, likes, tweets, hashtags, connections, keywords, tracbacks, etc. This will enable you to understand their quirks, tricks and lingo. Without those basic tools, you can’t do a pow-wow with them. Period. They will think you alien!

Without an effective understanding of the issues, how will do you persuade them or do battle if need be, during a boycott campaign? Where do you start? Thanks to their understanding of how social media works, the CEO of Dominos Pizza used YouTube to mitigate the severity of a damaging video posted by errant employees. If they had taken to another channel, their response would not have been as effective. They fought fire with fire. It worked for them. It can for you.

3. Build trust and goodwill
Midnight or mayhem is a lousy time to call a someone and ask for a fovour especially if a person had never heard from you before. Chances are, if you did not think they were important enough during the day, they may think you are not important enough to take your call during the mayhem. Simple.

In other words, developing warm and cordial relationships via social media well ahead of a crisis, will serve you well in the event of a boycott. Based on the trust and social capital that you have built over time, some of your fans and followers will be your best advocates during a crisis. If you have the kind of following that Starbucks, Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) or the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has, it will be hard for someone to stab you in the face and run away without getting a beating from your fans, friends and advocates.

4. Come clean quickly
There is no point to take so long to admit your shortcomings. This can go a long way in salvaging your reputation (damage control) and rebuilding your credibility during a crisis. Without an effective acknowledgement, the boycott campaign could intensify from social media to mass media channels. Good luck!

By taking a prompt stand, you arrest the hemorrhage and by so doing, avoid further damage to the tissues. One of the biggest lessons from the Motrin Moms boycott is that timing is crucial in a crisis. If you fail to come clean soon enough, you may end up with a bigger storm that is too difficult to diffuse. If start a fire at a wrong time, you can’t extinguish it. Time is crucial.

5. Respect the crowd
When you notice a significant barrage or wave coming towards you, be sure to re-calibrate your position and direction. There is a saying, if you can’t beat them, join them. If this is based on sound thinking, it can save your brand equity from an unprecedented demise.

The Susan G Komen Foundation came under intensive social fire from social media circles especially from women ‘s groups and Plannned Parenthood. When the “artillery fire” became impossible to withstand, the foundation had to reverse its decision on funding Planned Parenthood. By then, quite some damage had been done, thanks to social media campaigners.

Boycott campaigns can be mitigated through regular engagement, swift response and effective understanding of the ways in which social media activists work. Think of how this can help your organisation in a time of crisis.