Social media marketing as a discipline and corporate functuon is still in its  infancy. Only in the past few years are companies increasingly developing a more professional approach to social media. However, as there is no stextbook knowledge to rely upon, the first generation of professional social media marketers are learning by doing. Developing strict rules ad guidelines is one tactic to keep the human beings behind the social media accounts from making mistakes, but also it keeps them from being authentic, and therefore it keeps them ultimately from being interesting. It is a risky business to strike that fine line between authenticity on the one side and avoiding disaster and embarrassment on the other (Inc.com)

FOLLOW A CLEAR RESPONSE PLAN

There are many examples of companies that have manoeuvred themselves into uncomfortable positions by misfortunate communication attempts on social media (http://bit.ly/1hd4cYq). But ones it happens, how should one react? This question is particularly relevant to the travel and tourism industry that is made up predominantly by small and medium enterprises, who might not have a professional PR department to deal with such communication disasters.

OFFER A RESPONSE - AND OFFER IT IN TIME

The best reaction to a social media crisis is preparation: set up a social media policy and crisis communication plan. This includes that make sure that all relevant people in such a case have administrator access to all accounts. Than offer a well crafted response. Although speed is essential in the high paced social media environments, taking an extra moment to word a well crafted response to your community is more important than answering quickly but inappropriately. However, waiting for too long will only further damage the reputation.  An example how not responding in time can fuel the spread of negative content is the example of an open letter by a disgruntled passenger of Air France that went viral on social media last week. The Airline took over two days to issue a first response, which lost valuable time in which the brand reputation was harmed.

DON'T PRETEND THAT NOTHING HAPPENED

The worst mistake is acting like nothing happened. Deleting the message is important for damage control, but pretending that nothing happened will further damage the reputation. Even the most knowledgeable social media marketers can occasionally do a mistake, therefore it is important to accept responsibility.

REBUILD YOU IMAGE

Brands can survive social media disaster, as many examples have shown. But it may be an extensive and time consuming process to do so, depending on the gravity of the mistake.

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