I see it weekly if not monthly. Brand or company X goes about their business on a social platform, marketing, putting out fun apps, doling out coupons and yes in some cases, engaging. Then one day, they get attacked by their customers or perhaps an advocacy group. The response tends to always be the same.
In my estimation, the organization, business or brand in question has not gone through the rigor of scenario planning, and doing the fire-drills to prepare for attacks in social media. The biggest farce any organization will believe in social media is that they will be loved the moment they engage in social media. They may be. They will likely be hated as well and everything in between. Here are some thoughts that every organization who chooses to participate in social media should consider before, during and after they build their followers, fans and attract foes.
Plan For Multiple Scenarios
Get into the habit of mapping out every possible scenario that can happen to your digital embassy on social networks and plan for whatever you can think of happening both good and bad. Document the plan, then translate it into guidelines and put it in a place where everyone who maintains your social presence can access it. Update it regularly.
Practice "Social Media Fire-drills"
Run your team through exercises periodically. A good time to do this is during a training session when everyone across multiple regions can be in the same place at the same time. Replicate a crisis situation that you've seen happen to a competitor and make up ones you have not seen before.
Forget The Silos
Get your marketing, PR, and customer service people out of their silos ASAP when it comes to your social media initiatives where the public is involved. At minimum, set up a direct line of communication where stakeholders of each core discipline can be alerted the moment a scenario erupts and ensure that the group has some way to connect with each other. Even an old fashioned e-mail alias can help here.
Create "Dark Pages"
Have back up pages, tabs etc. that can be launched and customized at the click of a button when an attack or unfavorable scenario arises. Ensure that the right members of the team can launch this as needed.
Be Ready For Anything
The bottom line is that a truly social business must be prepared for any scenario thrown at them in in public forums. "Shutting it down" demonstrates that the company has not thought through the implications for how people engage in public and what they expect in return. A company should absolutely protect itself when needed, but build up a toolbox of techniques that serve this purpose and the needs of the community it serves. My recommendation is to start planning for multiple scenarios the minute you decide you want to "be social" and expect that anything and everything will happen. But don't let that stop you, just be ready for it.