Mark Cameron Columnist

Mark is CEO and head strategist at Working Three, a strategic digital consultancy that specialises in commercialising social media activity. He works with some of Australia's, and the world's, largest and most innovative companies to create a clear picture of the new market forces, and business model disruption, being driven by social media.

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Dodging disasters on social media

Published 14 March 2013 12:24, Updated 10 April 2013 07:32

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One of the biggest misconceptions about creating a company presence on social media platforms is the level of risk. Many corporate communicators have been discouraged by reading about PR catastrophes, but the truth is that social media disasters only happen when there is no clear plan for dealing with them.

Let’s examine the recent response to a potential online disaster by the fashion brand DKNY. Like many fashion labels, DKNY has been developing its social media presence to connect with its market, and with close to a million likes it has been doing a good job. While its page isn’t anything special, the company is far better prepared than other brands.

It all started with a Facebook post by photographer “Humans of New York”. “Several months ago,” he wrote, “I was approached by a representative of DKNY who asked to purchase 300 of my photos to hang in their store windows around the world. They offered me $15,000. A friend in the industry told me that $50 per photo was not nearly enough . . . so I asked for more money. They said ‘no’.

“Today, a fan sent me a photo from a DKNY store in Bangkok. The window is full of my photos. These photos were used without my knowledge, and without compensation. I don’t want any money. But please SHARE this post if you think that DKNY should donate $100,000 on my behalf to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.”

The post created a wave of negative comments and might have evolved into a full-blown crisis, but DKNY swiftly apologised on their own timeline, explained what had happened and donated $25,000 to the YMCA.

It’s not the fact that they apologised or made the donation that was remarkable. What made DKNY stand out was that they were one of the first to see the issue and they were able to deal with it quickly.

Social media is all about speed. It is essential that you have the right tools to see mentions of your brand as close to real time as possible. Make sure staff at the coalface, usually the community manager, have speedy access to decision makers before an issue becomes a crisis.

Clearly DKNY had thought this through. But even if your business doesn’t have a social media presence, are you prepared enough to respond to a potential crisis?

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