How To Handle Backlash On Social Media Networks
Posted by NaijaOBSERver
You are not as good as they say when you win nor are you as bad as they tell you when you lose.”
Following the events of the #Oga-At-The-Top saga, I am compelled to dedicate this week’s column to it for three reasons. First, as a medical doctor I realise that the Lagos State Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Mr. Obafaiye Shem (and by extension his family) may suffer from some form of posttraumatic stress. This can lead to depression and the like (I hope not).
Second, since I manage the reputation of organisations, I feel duty-bound to suggest ways by which individuals and organisations can better manage their brands when there are online reputational issues.
Finally, following an incident during my secondary school days, I was misquoted and ridiculed in a song specially composed for me. Many years later, I am still greeted with this song by friends from that era. It could have been viral if the social media, as we now know it, existed at that time.
Mr. Shem was made the butt of his peers’ jokes – a comic relief for many people. We have passed the tipping point and stretched this laugh too tight. It is time to stop it and move on.
He erred in transferring the burden of knowledge to his Oga. The buck stops at your table and not your #OgaAtTheTop. Too many times someone else or another team is to blame for organisation and personal failure.
It is unsurprising to find people who do not know the website address of their organisation. Some do not know its products and/or services. A good number of people have come to depend on Google to save their blushes.
The responsibility for what you know is entirely yours. How you obtain that knowledge is entirely up to you. An unwilling man would give a thousand excuses. A willing man would find a thousand ways.
The awesome destructive power of social media
The social media is very powerful and should be used with great caution. Since the incident, the video has gone viral, viewed over 190,000 times making it the most viewed video on the Channels TV YouTube channel. The hashtag #OgaAtTheTop was the top trending topic in Nigeria on Twitter for days. It also ignited a T-Shirt campaign, a music video and a remix tape. Poor Mr Shem.
I have not tweeted about the incident. I have also not seen the video (on purpose). My thoughts are with Mr Shem. What state of mind is he in now? How would he recover? What kind of support is being offered to him? Is he being counseled? What is the effect of this “shame” on his spouse and children? What if you are the head of the organisation how would you have handled the issue? – a) bury your head in shame b) deny the unfortunate fellow c) wield the big stick d) ignore it and pretend it would all go away soon?
At times like these, let us be reminded about our own shortcomings. Careers have been ruined, homes destroyed, jobs lost and deaths caused by social media (even in this country). I think it is enough. Those who propagate such abject humiliation of this man are simply giving charcoal to the fire of those who want social media to be regulated. We have freedom of speech but sometimes brevity is the soul of business. In great actions men show themselves as they ought to be. It is in the little actions that they show themselves as they really are.
Help! We are being attacked on social media
How do you handle an ongoing negative backlash on social media? How do you recover your brand’s reputation?
Here are a few steps I advocate:
Leadership: The first step is for the most senior officer (The Oga at the Top) to accept responsibility to lead the rescue mission. In this case, it could have been at the national level in conjunction with Mr. Shem’s office.
Speed: The issue should have been speedily analysed within minutes to hours and an appropriate response crafted. The response should contain an unreserved apology (not an explanation or an excuse) and an admittance of the error. It should be sincere. It should state categorically what the error was. It might also contain how the organisation intends to use the lessons learnt to prevent a reoccurrence. A tinge of humour wouldn’t harm anyone. The organisation has to be able to have a good laugh at itself.
Like for Like: This response should be put up on the organisation’s social media pages. If it does not have, it should create the appropriate ones immediately. The rationale is to respond, using the same media that promoted the incident’s virality. Once the response is up – as a tweet, post, etc- it has the capacity to alter the speed and nature of the negative mentions. If the response comes across as really sincere, the negative mentions would begin to drop as the positive and neutral mentions increase. A number of my clients have successfully come out of situations like these with their heads held high following self inflicted negative publicity stunts.
A typical tweet/post in response to such negative press might be, “Our Lagos State commandant goofed big time. #OgaAtTheTop is inexcusable and we are deeply sorry. We would continue improving. We live to learn”. Simple yet profound.
Alas, that was not the case. As at Sunday, March 17, 2013 there was yet no official response on the organisation’s social media pages. What a missed opportunity!
My take out
For the rest of us, it is time to bridge the gaps in our knowledge or keep mum in public. If recruitment firms were to record and play back interview sessions, we might find more hilarious and outrageous comments. Remember, what can go wrong may go wrong…so plan for it.
I leave Mr Shem with the words of this famous Japanese saying, “Fall seven times, rise up eight times”.
Courtesy: Dr. Anderson Uvie-Emegbo