When the Thunder Rolls…Dealing With A Social Media Storm

We see it on social media ALL the time. Someone posts something that seems innocent enough, and before we know it, the post or tweet has gone viral as a misstep. The thunder rolls in and a social media storm develops.

This fall our district dealt with a social media storm when we least expected it.

The backstory:
When we changed from carton milk to bagged milk, we tested it in several schools the year before. We implemented it this year. All seemed to be going well…until one day. We posted about one of the local media stations doing a story on the new milk, and the storm hit! The district became inundated with comments of parents unhappy with the decision to change and rumors began to fly.

Now that the clouds have dissipated and the storm has passed, here are a few things we were reminded of during our social media storm:

  1. Listen to your Audience
    The great thing about social media is the two-way communication. If you are on social media, you should be willing to take that feedback, evaluate and make changes if necessary. For us, the situation was something that wasn’t on our radar as a concern. After hearing from the public, we took the opportunity to take polls and hear more from our community about the issue.
  2.  Know the Difference Between Misrepresentation of Facts and a Difference of Opinions
    It is important to know the difference between misrepresentation of facts and a difference of opinion. Not everyone is going to agree with a district decision, and that is OK (snow days). If someone has concerns, we would rather they involve us in the conversation then take that conversation elsewhere. If there is incorrect information – take the opportunity to give them the correct information.
  1. Educate Your Audience
    With any situation, rumors tend to fly quickly. Take the opportunity to tell your audiences the facts. Make sure they hear them from you, which leaves less room for misinterpretation.
  1. Transparency
    Transparency is key. Throughout the whole storm, we remained very transparent. People had a lot of questions and concerns about reasons for the change, nutritional facts and the taste of the milk. We answered all their questions in multiple communication methods, shared the nutritional facts and even had our Board of Education taste the milk at a public meeting.
  1. Vocal Minority
    Look at the commenters. Is a small number people posting multiple times or is it a large number of people posting concerns? Many times it is a vocal minority.
  1. Admit Wrongdoing – Correct the Problem
    If there truly is wrongdoing, admit it! Sometimes the best thing to do is apologize, show your audience that you are learning from the issue and fix it.
  1. Build Trust With Your Audience Ahead of Time
    No matter what the issue is, follow these steps prior to any storm – social media or otherwise – and you will build trust with your audience. Building trust helps to minimize social media storms ahead of time.

For many, when they experience a social media storm, their first instinct is to shy away. The way we handled this storm showed the value of schools using social media. We give our community the opportunity to provide feedback, we listened and evaluated what we were doing. We included our audience in the whole process. Ultimately, we didn’t change what we were doing, but I believe our community feels like we listened to their concerns and took them into account when making a final decision. That’s invaluable.

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This entry was posted in Facebook, Monitoring, NSPRA, Social Media, Twitter by Kala Morrissey. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kala Morrissey

Kala Morrissey is the Coordinator of Marketing and Visual Information for Omaha Public Schools. She is currently the President of the Nebraska Chapter of NSPRA. Kala has presented at the local, state and national level on the role of social media in education. She was named to NSPRA's 35 under 35 list in 2012 and a NSPRA Front Runner in 2014-15.

6 thoughts on “When the Thunder Rolls…Dealing With A Social Media Storm

  1. This is fantastic. Thanks for sharing your experience — and the lessons learned. These are points I know I’ll come back to time and again!

  2. Pingback: Surviving a Social Media Storm [Guest Blogger: Kala Morrissey] • Kristin Magette

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