With all this coronavirus negativity lurking, just how likely is it an irate member will unleash online over a small incident at your club? Right. So you need to be ready for negative social media. How can you do that?
First, put a good plan in place before a problem arises.
- Create a clear social media policy for your employees. In the simplest terms, a social media policy is a guideline for how everyone should conduct themselves online. Here’s a good template and guide.
- Establish a gym photography policy. Many larger national gyms have a “no photo” and “no video” policy. And while there’s no keeping phones out of today’s gym, well-placed signage and a written policy (possibly included in your health club contract) can keep incidences under control.
- Actively engage in “social listening.” This is where you monitor brand mentions across media channels and watch out for changes in how people feel about your fitness center – you don’t want to find out 24 hours later that a negative post has gone viral. Not in a world where “more than a quarter of crises spread internationally within one hour.”
- Centralize access to social media accounts. Build strong passwords and limit the number of employees who know them. This system makes it easier to respond to a social media crisis and gives you control after employees leave the job.
Then, actively monitor negative social media posts.
You should not ignore negative social media comments on your feeds. However, not all bad posts require a response. A general industry complaint can sit in the “observe” pile, unless or until the poster mentions your business directly. When or if that happens, it’s important to respond quickly, but carefully.
Taking any comment personally reflects badly on you and your business. Instead, practice a few deep breathing techniques, then post a short reply with the intent of taking it off social media. Invite the individual to email or call you directly. Don’t get pulled into a long conversation.
If the original comment made an incorrect statement about your business or policies, correct the information and try to engage directly through social media. A calm, neutral, concerned approach can deflate tempers.
If the negative posts keep growing…
A social media crisis needs to be addressed as soon as possible, in real time, or your inaction can cause it to worsen. And once the mentions get out of hand, it may not be possible to reply individually to everyone.
- Post a general company message acknowledging the problem or concern.
- Pause any previously scheduled posts to ensure their content does not unintentionally add fuel to the fire.
- Let relevant people in your business know what is happening.
- Consider releasing a more in-depth response – a press release, or an official statement by the fitness club owner via letter or video.
- Engage online with the negative posters, but don’t get drawn into arguments. Instead, keep your message consistent – pointing them back to your official statement. With online crises, people are watching, so it’s important to stay calm.
- Communicate with your staff to ensure they do not unintentionally spread misinformation or rumors.
After the fallout
Regroup and think about what happened. Communicate and discuss the situation with key advisors, and go back to that social media offense. How can you make sure you’re ready for the next unhappy customer?
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