written by MO.com Subject Matter Resource David Howard
My greatest chuckle last week came when I read on my iphone that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had told the Huffington Post that it “does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead.” That’s a relief.
The CDC spokesperson was responding to an inquiry from the HuffPo for a story that touched on the recent face-eating attack in Miami and other recent violent attacks across North America that involved cannibalistic acts.
Putting the horror of these incidents aside, it’s interesting to consider the ripples in the social fabric that would prompt the question to begin with. The CDC has used a fictional zombie apocalypse scenario as the basis for a disaster preparedness manual, but that’s just a coincidence.
For whatever reason, zombies have captured the public’s imagination in recent years, and presumably, that’s why the CDC based their manual on that scenario. If you think about it for a minute, you probably know somebody who’s “into zombies.”
The term “zombie walk” has earned its own page on Wikipedia, dating back at least to 2009, and there are numerous zombie apocalypse groups on Facebook. According to the Huffington Post story, the term “zombie apocalypse” was the third-hottest search term on Google by the morning of Friday, June 1, when they published. (It goes without saying that the CDC declaration became a meme of its own on Twitter after the story was published.)
Anecdotally, people were talking zombie apocalypse in response to the attacks, and that talk inevitably translated to online chatter. What’s true for zombies is true for your brand.
Memes, good or bad, related to your brand, easily take on a life of their own, like the undead, fueled by social media. And it’s not safe to ignore them. This means tracking and monitoring social media channels, and also having a response plan in place before disaster strikes. And you need senior management buy-in.
One company I worked with recently learned the hard way. During a service outage, customers turned to Twitter to try to get answers. The company, viewing social media as only a marginal channel, ignored them. Before long, the meme on Twitter turned from “when will service be restored?” to “why aren’t you telling us anything?” Competitors piled on as well, taking advantage of the situation. Ultimately, this company lost customers, not only because of the service outage, but because they didn’t communicate with their customers, and because they didn’t communicate using the channels their customers use.
There’s no doubt this is all complex, and it takes more than a couple of interns to manage, but the fact that the CDC could be compelled to deny the existence of zombies speaks to the power of “in-the-flesh” social experiences translated to online media.
It’s useful, and necessary, to think about your brand, what sort of experiences your customers have with the brand, in-person, and how that translates, in both best-case and worst-case scenarios, online. Are you prepared to mitigate the damage, or leverage positive brand response, when it happens? And, oh, by the way, this all unfolds in real-time.
Don’t wait for your own zombie brand apocalypse. Put your monitoring tools, and a response plan, in place today. Secure management buy-in and remain agile. Faddish though it may seem at times, and even though it will evolve, social media, and the power it gives your customers, is not going away.