Amazon has been on a PR rollercoaster ride since Sunday when gay-themed books began disappearing from the sales rankings and search algorithms. The Twitterverse immediately swung into action claiming a new anti-gay policy and AmazonFail soon eclipsed Easter as a hot topic. Although the sales rankings are returning to normal, the story rolls on with coverage of why and how the site changed and even a claim of responsibility from a hacker.
This turn of events clearly demonstrates how social media compresses the timeline for managing a crisis. It also illustrates an important rule of PR: Either proactively manage your brand or the Twitterverse and other online communities will do it for you.
With that motto in mind, here a few general tips to create and protect consumer brands in today’s communications landscape.
1) People on Twitter are typing what others are thinking. Don’t discount the opinions expressed on Twitter or any other online channel as the “vocal” minority. Vocal yes. Minority, probably not.
2) Don’t let the conversation be one sided. The mantra of social media is – “Join the conversation.” Listen just as much (if not more) than you talk online. The good news is that, by establishing a rapport, you have the ear of the community when you need it.
3) Use the rapport. Do not walk away from the conversation when it matters most. The Amazon Twitter feed’s last update was on April 9, the Friday before this all broke. The Amazon corporate feed primarily features tweets about the Amazon Daily blog. Even though the Twitter feed stopped, the Amazon Daily rolled on. The Amazon Daily on Monday (day 2 of the situation) featured a number of book and product reviews. There was more timely content too: reports on the Obama’s new dog and Phil Spector’s guilty verdict. The CTO of Amazon kept on Tweeting, just not about the controversy.
4) What happens in the Twitterverse doesn’t stay in the Twitterverse. Obviously, the mainstream media follows what happened at Amazon but many smaller events cross over every day. In fact, most reporters are actively using Twitter to track trends, find resources and hunt for story ideas.
5) Brand management in the social media realm is an ongoing process. Just ask Southwest Airlines, which furthers its reputation as a customer centric brand every day by using its Twitter feed as a very public demonstration of fast, effective customer service in action.
Posted by Emily Fisher on April 14, 2009 at 5:13 PM