04/19/2012 01:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Social Media: Three Disaster Planning Tips

The Challenge: Domino's Pizza. GoDaddy. Chrysler. Mattel. The Gap. Nestle. And the list goes on. Some of the biggest brands have suddenly found themselves entangled in social media crises that no one could have predicted... but that we all must now plan for.

Social Media Crises on the Rise

These crises were sparked by thoughtless, tactless and/or malicious social media postings. Whether the postings were true or false, whether they originated from within or outside the company, they eventually became big mainstream news in both traditional and interactive media.

The risk of instant, devastating damage to any brand, large or small, is now higher than ever... and the trend is only accelerating.

In this environment, the question arises: Should your enterprise simply wait for a disaster to happen?

The obvious, imperative and increasingly impossible-to-ignore answer is "no."

Four Takeaways for Marketers:

Here are four best practices you can implement right now, before the storm hits, that will reduce the chances of your enterprise being "blindsided" by a social media disaster:

Best Practice No. 1: Identify the Communication Channels That Matter Most.

You must know ahead of time where and how your current customers, prospects and advocates now communicate about you and your brand. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are likely environments, but certainly not the only ones to consider. Decide who within your organization will be responsible for handling messaging in each of those channels during a crisis. Do this now.

Best Practice NO. 2: Monitor Social Media References to Your Brand.

Two essential tools for keeping tabs on what people are saying about your company, its brands, and its promotions are Google Alerts and Twitter's search tool. Other tools will be found in specific online environments. If you're not now monitoring for daily, or even hourly, intelligence on what is happening in interactive media and how it affects your enterprise, start.

Best Practice No. 3: Create a Virtual Customer Council.

When a crisis hits, you will have minutes or hours -- not days or weeks -- to hone your message and respond. When you do, be sure to take advantage of existing online relationships with your best customers. Identify your "top 10" (or 20, or however many) online advocates who are satisfied customers. When the storm descends, take their counsel and get their feedback before you make any major decisions about how to respond to the crisis. Ask for their help in addressing false or malicious communications about your brand.

Best Practice No. 4: Of course, once the storm does hit, you must be accountable for problems that actually exist, and fix them.

Ernan Roman is President of the marketing consultancy, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.
Recognized as the industry pioneer who created three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-In Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.

Ernan was recently inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame.

Clients include Microsoft, NBC Universal, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

2010-12-08-ernan.jpgErnan was named to "B to B's Who's Who" as one of the "100 most influential people" in Business Marketing by Crain's B to B Magazine.

His fourth and latest book on marketing best practices is titled: Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.

Ernan is also the co-author of "Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing" and author of "Integrated Direct Marketing: The Cutting Edge Strategy for Synchronizing Advertising, Direct Mail, Telemarketing and Field Sales."