Social media is a powerful communication tool, a great way to connect with customers and find out what they are interested in and can be a force for good in a challenging online world. Social media can also be the focal point for addressing concerns with brands and personalities, and when this starts to trend a social media pile on can happen.

What is a Social Media Pile On?

As with most new terms this can mean a few different things to different people but on the whole a pile on is an argument or attack of a large amount of people against a smaller group of people, a person or an individual brand. In real terms this simply means that if someone has a point or gripe to make with a company and posts on social media about it, then lots and lots of other people agree and ‘pile on’ to this grievance it can cause a real problem for the media and PR relations of the brand that it is happening to.

How to Respond to a Pile On

Social Media moves fast and ‘pile ons’ can happen quickly and morph rapidly in real time, but even with this is the case a calm media response is always required. Excellent media training and a strong support network for those dealing with media relations of a given brand are the best starting point for dealing with a pile on. If a pile on happens to your company, then your crisis media plan and training should kick in and you can then go on to decide how to respond to the social media pile on.

Here are a few tactical approaches to dealing with a pile on

Do you need to respond? – One of the biggest decisions you will make is if you should reply or challenge what is happening at all. Pile ons are something completely out of you control, even if you delete the offending tweet or put out a statement the pile on can continue and escalate. So careful monitoring of the situation is needed.

Are these genuine customers?  – Are the people who are complaining about your company, your customers? While any problems always need addressing when it comes to a social media pile on, defining who is complaining and why will give you some direction as to how to deal with it. The sad truth is that lots of people who jump into pile ons have no interest in fixing any perceived problem and so responding to them won’t change anything either.

What is the Impact to Your Business? – Pile ons are often short lived, although very well planned and targeted ones can have lasting impact, so as a business you have to decide how much of an impact this has to your bottom line. Although difficult to manage at the time there may be little or marginal impact to your brand reputation or revenue streams.

What has caused the pile on? – Mistakes happen, if your brand has made a mistake and you know you are in the wrong then normal crisis management rules apply. Get the message out fast and apologise quickly. If you are being criticised for something you did not do, or think is ok, then your response will most likely have to be more nuanced than that.

Crisis Management Training

A pile on can happen to businesses of any size and in any industry. The best way to deal with a social media pile on is to have great communication, and especially crisis management training. The team at Hawkeye Media are perfectly placed to ensure your communication team know what to do when there is a crisis (even if its a social media pile on crisis) and the confidence to respond in an appropriate way when it happens.