1. Listen to your target group
Know, what your target group expects as an answer. If this is about missing information or misinformation, then just set it straight. If it’s a ridiculous rant, answer with humor. If your product is something more serious, your answer has to be as well. If your product is something for entertainment, your answer should be entertaining, if your product is healthcare, address your patients fears, etc., etc.
2. Do not hit back
If there is a chance to take it with humor, use it and create a digital asset that has the potential to not only pacify your target group, but at the same time provides additional benefits. In the case of Bodyform – the female hygiene products company – a disgruntled man complained about the positive pictures in Bodyforms ads, featuring women skydiving, rollerblading and horseriding, while dealing with their menstrual cycles. Bodyform answered with a tongue-in-cheek video that went viral and earned the company positive feedback from their actual target group:
3. Speak human language
Avoid AdSpeak by all means! Answer with a human voice. Social Media followers and audiences do not like corporate communication and they do not appreciate marcom language. Have a meaningful spokesperson, be it a real testimonial, your CEO or any other advocate accepted by your target group.
4. Analyze possible scenarios
Let people, who know the social media environment, play test scenarios to find out, where your answer could lead to. There is even software to help you with that: Firebell and Social Simulator.
5. Face public exposure
Be aware, that it’s not only your target group that is out there. And these other people could hijack your idea and turn it into a backfiring joke. This has happened to McDonald’s ‘#McD-Stories on Twitter, which have bee spoofed as #McFail and also to the Henkel Pril Label Contest.
6. Hire experts
Set up an “emergency panel”or “a war room” – employees who are in the target group AND know social media very well, especially those platforms that are most important for your brand. They should be able to assess the short term necessities and develop the medium term response.
7. Get help from KOLs
Work with your key opinion leaders in the online world. Get some accord with your important bloggers, integrate them into your answer strategy and motivate them to support it.