The tone of his post may have been right, but the message it delivered showed the company still hadn't been listening to its own customers, who didn't want to manage two separate product queues across two different outfits. Customers remained upset until the company backed off from the plan in an even terser follow-up post. After that, things calmed down -- but perhaps not enough.
"In many ways, there was an opportunity to stick to message, to acknowledge and leave it be, and not introduce new elements," says DiMauro. "But the idea that he genuinely responded and acknowledged was good." Unfortunately, the Netflix subscriber base continues to suffer.
In cases where you're not specifically at fault -- for example, if your hotel has received a negative Yelp review from a disgruntled visitor -- your best bet is to use, whenever possible, the medium in question to respond directly to the critic. Many services currently allow the verified owner of a business to respond to negative comments, so use that -- it has a higher chance of being discovered by people who need to see it, and it makes you look that much more proactive and engaged. But remember, it's important not to be defensive -- acknowledge the complaint, even if you feel it's unjustified, and explain calmly how you are trying (or have tried) to ameliorate the situation.
Third step: Learn from your mistakes and make future plans
Many social media gaffes illustrate a lack of process -- whether it's a triage process or one for developing a social media strategy in general. If you're currently cleaning up a mess, now is the time to learn from it and develop a solid policy, along with a set of procedures.
One thing that does not work -- or that works at a terrible cost -- is trying to get out of social media entirely. "There has lately been a backlash of regulated organizations taking social media away entirely from their staff," says Sean Corcoran, a senior analyst on the interactive marketing team at Forrester Research. "The impact of that is many millennials are leaving the better companies because they don't have the tools of their trade to share with peers, perform decision-making and so on." Plus, a company that doesn't use social media might soon seem as backwards as one that doesn't use other business tools like CRM or content management systems.
If you have no social media policy in place, develop one. As a starting point, you can look for examples from other companies. Chris Boudreaux's Social Media Governance site has a database of social media policies from a variety of different organizations, some of which could serve as models for your own.
DiMauro makes a point of how a social media policy should be a reflection of each company's individual position and needs. "Social media policies need to reflect the culture and risk tolerance for that company," she says. For example, a plan that has been developed for a medical or financial company will probably be more conservative than one for a software company "since they take regulation into account."