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How Auto Dealers Can Survive A Social Media Crisis

Posted by Ketty Colom on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 @ 02:01 PM

“Neither privacy nor publicity is dead, but technology will continue to make a mess of both.”
Danah Boyd, social media researcher for Microsoft

If you have a strong social media presence for long enough, crisis is bound to strike. Whether a stray tweet intended for your personal account makes its way onto the dealership’s main feed, or a sales pitch mishap becomes an embarrassing viral phenomenon, it’s undeniable that you have plenty of company. But you can’t hide your face in your hands forever - and the strength of your brand is truly tested in the wake of a social media disaster. So before you hurry to delete your company’s entire Facebook page, read the following cases for tips on how to get all that digital egg off your face.


While multitasking with Twitter management software HootSuite, a distracted associate charged with Red Cross’s social media efforts mistakenly tweeted the following from the institution’s account:
THE SOLUTION: Thinking quickly, Red Cross turned a potentially disastrous social media blunder into an opportunity for positive press by deleting the original post and replacing it with this one:
THE LESSON FOR AUTO DEALERS: By handling their mistake with humor and humanity, The American Red Cross actually received widespread attention, support from their Twitter community, and an increase in their donations on the day of the mistake. When dealing with your own social media crisis, remember that your audience is comprised of human beings with a sense of humor and a capacity for forgiveness. Show them that you don’t take yourself too seriously, and they will reward you for it.
THE CRISIS: It didn’t take long for Brian Finklestein’s video of a Comcast technician asleep on his couch to become a viral sensation. Viewers commented that this illustration of the Internet Service Provider literally asleep at the wheel to be a microcosm of the customer service issues that had plagued their homes too.


THE SOLUTION: After Finklestein’s video gained the attention of over a million viewers and the mass media, Comcast realized they needed to better connect with their customers. They issued an apology and established a Twitter account, @comcastcares - which is now an industry leader in customer service. By sending out daily responses to questions, home repair tips, and valuable product insight, Comcast has gone a long way in repairing its tarnished reputation.
THE LESSON FOR AUTO DEALERS: Comcast learned how to listen to their customers’ values the hard way. And when your reputation is as damaged as Comcast's, a simple apology is never enough. After apologizing, you need to actively fix the problem. Take time to talk with those affected, and find out how you can best solve the dilemma. With the input of your customers, take action - implement innovative, accessible ways to make up for your failures.


THE CRISIS: After a harsh blizzard struck the Northeast U.S. in the fall of 2011, over 100 JetBlue passengers were left stranded on the Connecticut tarmac for 7 hours - without access to food or a functional bathroom. The airline’s lack of communication with its pilot or passengers led its customers to consider JetBlue callous and uncaring.

THE SOLUTION: JetBlue CEO David Neeleman decided to confront his company’s stigma as uncommunicative and distant by interacting directly with his customers and their preferred media. In a video response posted to YouTube, Neeleman acknowledged the company’s shortcoming and promised improvements - but most importantly, he gave his apology a human face. The sincerity of a personal appeal is much more expressive and convincing than the cold text of a press release.

THE LESSON FOR AUTO DEALERS: Whenever you’re at fault for a screw-up, communication is key - and dealerships need to ensure that their apologies don’t fall on deaf ears. Make your customer communications as public as you can - through social media, announcements on your website, and live chat with individual customers. During a social media crisis, the worst thing you can do is maintain radio silence.


Lessons from the mistakes of others might help you avoid your own public relations blunders. When confronted with crisis, keep your cool and remember these infamous social media screw-ups. Be human, and have a sense of humor! 
Share with us some of your most memorable social media disasters in a comment below!

Topics: social media for auto dealers, Twitter, Facebook