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How to Prepare for a Social Media Firestorm

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Many businesses do not have a social media presence; the few who are brave (or aware) enough to have a Facebook or Twitter account do not activate the comment button or allow others to contact them there.

Bottom line: They are afraid of the negative things others might say about them or their products.

It is true that a social media flare-up could potentially cause lots of damage to your brand, however, it is not reason enough for you to totally shy away from social media. While there is always that threat of a social media flare-up, it can be overcome—easily, if you are just prepared for it.

According to a recent article by Clickz.com, it is “critical” for companies that maintain a social media presence—no matter how involved they are in it or not—to be prepared for an issue to flare up because “you don't control the social media conversation.”

For your business or company to survive a social media flare-up, preparing for it is key.

Clickz.com offers these five steps for businesses to follow:

1. Monitor for Brand Mentions

It is important that you monitor what is being said about your service or products, and your name. That means you look at social media metrics and analytics. This can be done by employing certain free services that exist like, Google Alerts and Social Mention.

2. Have a Social Media Guideline

Employees should be made aware that what they do on social media is displayed for the whole world to see, read, or comment on. Your company should put in place guidelines for employees to follow on social media because they represent you.

3. Have a Crisis Management Plan

Having such a plan saves you time, and allows you to go into an automatic, organized, and smooth damage control mode should a crisis arise. Also remember that a crisis management plan goes beyond just “having the name of the PR crisis management firm.” That means you should have “a detailed plan complete with employee names and cellphone numbers across your company”.

4. Have a Contingency Plan

When the PR firm or in-house damage control people are not around, you can still function and deal with the crisis if you have such a plan.

5. Build Your Social Media Audience

Successfully cultivating your relationship with “fans” or brand followers can pay off down the road—especially during a crisis. There may always be people who are waiting to bring you and the company down, but the power of loyal supporters on social media can overcome such negativity. Clickz.com points to the example of Ford's Scott Monty who “was able to contain an issue due to the support of his loyal Twitter following.”

What this all boils down to is the awareness that everyone should have when using social media.While many of these concepts seem more geared to "big business" they really aren't. These strategies are relevant for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Companies should be vigilant and ensure employees know they have a responsibility to the company name when using social media.

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