SOCIAL MEDIA: THE NEW PR FIRE EXTINGUISHER

So today I came across an article about a deadly venomous snake that is missing from the New York City Zoo.  This Egyptian Cobra, which can easily take down an elephant within hours (not to mention a human within minutes), has been missing for a few days now, and zoo keepers believe that the cobra is hiding out somewhere in the Reptile House.  Needless to say, while this article doesn’t mention how attendance has changed since the cobra has gone missing, I can imagine that the numbers have taken quite a tumble.  In today’s world, where news can spread globally within a few minutes via social media, this could have easily and drastically hurt the zoo in various ways.

But in this article, I found the golden nugget.

“While zoo personnel continue their search, someone has set up a cheeky Twitter account to chronicle the snake’s fictitious adventures as she apparently explores New York City.” …with tweets such as, ‘Leaving Wall Street. These guys make my skin crawl.’ “

Now, we don’t know if it was someone from the zoo that set up this account, but in the matter of days, this twitter account has more than 20k followers. It has turned fear into intrigue and entertainment; it made a bad thing become something fun and interesting; it turned bad PR into social media opportunity.

So what is the take-away for business?  When it comes to social media:

Be proactive.

Don’t let social media control you and your PR; Take the reigns and control it yourself.

A perfect example of this is the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA” a.k.a. the body scanner people at the airports), they do a great job of utilizing social media to “put out the fires”.

In 2009, a woman’s blog quickly became viral as she wrote TSA agents took my son“, a very emotional story about her being separated from her child while traveling through a TSA check point, claiming that TSA agents took her son from out of her sight.  She wrote about how she broke down in tears, she used vulgar language in the blog, and made many accusations against TSA.

In a short time, and before this could reach the news outlets and become an out-of-control wildfire, TSA responded to her claim using social media (youtube, twitter, Facebook, blog) .  In their blog, they posted “Response to: ‘TSA Agents Took My Son’ ” and were somewhat sympathetic to her claims.  However, in the blog post, they included NINE different security videos that showed her son being by her side the entire time, dismantling any validity of her claims.  She promptly wrote an apology on her blog and admitted that what she had claimed was false.

GREAT example of how to control social media and not let social media control you.

The moral of the story is, companies NEED to be actively involved in social media.  Had TSA not been active and out there listening to what people were saying about their product, they would have had a mountainous wildfire to put out.

Social media is a reality; it is out there.  People are talking…the question is…are you listening?

I’d love to hear more examples of how companies have successfully used social media. Please feel free to share 

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