I am publishing a special series detailing my SWARM methodology — a toolset to help you respond when your organization gets negative feedback online. This is the fourth lesson. You may want to start reading with the “S” in SWARM, the “W” in SWARM, the “A” in SWARM, and the “R” in SWARM first.

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The final, and perhaps most important, part of the SWARM Methodology is to turn your combatants into advocates.

In the case of the previous section, when a wheelchair-using guest had issues with mobility in the restaurant, a simple way to make friends is to use her as a kind of informal focus group on access. Always ask permission, though, before this kind of move, but done with tact and a genuine desire to improve, almost nobody will turn you down.

It’s simple to do — you don’t need special mailing list software or web-based bulletin boards. Just create a folder in your email program for each issue and store your new friends’ emails there.

In the case of a restaurant, your issue-based folders could be:

  • Better access for wheelchairs (“accessibility”)
  • When are we getting gluten-free bread? (“gluten-free”)
  • Patio is too noisy (“patio/outdoor”)
  • Web site is too hard to order from (“web site”)

Then, once you’ve made some real improvement in these areas, send a single email back to these people (only if they gave you permission to do so when the issue first came up). Remember to speak like a human — me and I, not us and we.

One example email:

[message_box title=”Subject: Can I buy you dinner?” color=”yellow”]

Hi Dave,

Last year, you were kind enough to let me know about the problems you were having trying to order food for delivery on our web site. Thank you again for your time describing the issue.

Last week, we launched a new version of the web site and tried to incorporate many of your great suggestions.
I would love it if you would try ordering again, and please use the coupon code DINNERFORDAVE. That one-time coupon will cover the cost of the food up to $50.

If you have any other suggestions or comments on the new site, please let send them directly my way. I really appreciate your input!


The other advantage to making friends in the social channel is that this kind of direct service engenders more than fans — it can create advocates for your brand as well. If you’re attacked online, these people often will rally to your side.

For this reason, you may want to use Twitter’s “lists” function or Google+’s “circles” function to keep a list of your best supporters, along specific topics. Just be sure, if you use a Twitter list, that you set it to Private so others can’t see the people on that list.

(Facebook doesn’t have an easy way for brand pages to deliniate their fans into different groups.)

Here’s a real-world example.

My company, engageQ digital, works with a number of organizations helping them on their social media channels. One of those groups is a large regional shopping centre. One night at about 8pm, a shopper posted this on the centre’s Facebook wall:


This went viral very, very quickly. Within a couple of hours, hundreds of people weighed in through the comments agreeing with this poster. So, seeing it begin to pick up steam, I posted this — under the shopping centre’s brand:


To help ensure the most vocal of commenters would see our reply, I tagged them in the post. We continued to post essentially similar versions of this message through the night, which was received very warmly by people following the post. They appreciated that the brand was listening and responding.

The next morning, I posted this into the comments section of the original post:


And then sent about 50 of the very vocal commenters this Facebook message (from my own personal account, since Facebook doesn’t permit Pages to send messages:


Since I wasn’t “Facebook-Friends” with any of these 50 people, my message landed in their “Other” inbox, which many people don’t see. About 15 people saw the message and responded with their regular email address (this way, we didn’t need to get blocked by Facebook’s “Other” inbox or ask them to become friends with me).

Three months later, I emailed them this:


About 10 people responded and — yay! — the kiosks were indeed better. This simple rating scale gave a more objective average of opinions for the mall’s management team plus it offered the opportunity for people to add qualitative comments.

The people who responded really appreciate this extra effort:


It doesn’t take much time, but it’s important.

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This is a small part of Tod’s keynote presentation “The Facts of Strife: A Blueprint to Crisis Management Online.” In the presentation, your group will also learn:

  • Tod’s company’s highly effective PEDB (Praise/Escalate/Delete/Ban) flow-strategy for managing your brand’s social media presence
  • How to create a Negative Response Strategy for your firm
  • The most effective, compliance-safe social media policies for employees
  • How one of the most talked-about social media campaigns ended up nearly destroying its brand
  • Tod’s model of a “web swarm,” and his five-step methodology for responding to a swarm
  • How your legal and marketing teams should deal when your brand falls victim to “Twitterjacking
  • Case studies of instances where organizations in your industry have faced attacks online, how they dealt with them, and the results
  • Why your organization’s next hire needs to be a Chief Humanizing Officer and what that role would entail
  • How to monitor the state of your brand’s reputation daily, with almost no technical expertise

Here is more information about the presentation or you can inquire about Tod presenting it to your group.