There was a very interesting post today on Mashable! entitled HOW TO: Survive a Social Media Revolt by Muhammad Saleem which I have excerpted here for the “lessons” relevant not only to entrepreneurs:
“…The Hulu team’s initial mistake and Jason Kilar’s subsequent response memo present many lessons for all social media entrepreneurs (and their executives).
Lesson #1: Communicate Even If You Have Nothing to Say
It baffles me to see that most of the people running popular social media sites (and new media sites in general) hardly communicate with their communities. When they do, it’s usually for one of two reasons, either an announcement of new features (which is useful for PR purposes), or to apologize for their mistakes (these apologies usually come after massive uproar, not in the absence of). Write to your community and participate in your community even if you don’t have something ground breaking to say, and definitely communicate with your community if you’re going to be making changes that will effect thousands of loyal users.
Lesson #2: Be Forthright
When you’re making a change to your service or making an important decision (examples would be Digg taking down the encryption key, Twitter limiting API use or text messages per month, Facebook embarking on a major redesign orbanning lactavists) talk to your community first. And when you do talk to them, don’t be evasive, don’t mince words or try to weasel out of the truth. Be forthright, tell them everything you know, what you have to do, and why you have to do it.
The most loyal in your community will either understand your decisions, and if they don’t, it will at least start a conversation that can result in the optimal solution for everyone. Kilar is very straightforward in stating that though his team is clearly responsible for mishandling the situation, the removed and temporarily reinstated episodes will ultimately have to go – even though Hulu doesn’t want them to – because it was the content owner that requested the removal of the episodes.
Lesson #3: Make It Clear That You’re Listening
As important as it is to communicate to your community, it is equally important to listen to what they have to say. And if you’re listening to them, make it clear that you’re listening, absorbing, and acting based on the feedback. Though it took a disastrous situation like this, Kilar makes it clear that the community has his ear and that his team is reading every email, every blog post, and every twitter message posted.
Lesson #4: Acknowledge Your Mistakes
When you make a mistake, rather than hiding in a bunker and waiting for the backlash to go away, or worse, trying to fight the backlash, it’s always best to come out and admit that you made a mistake. After all, the customer is always right (especially if there are millions of customers, all in agreement, they must be right), and Kilar knows that and agrees that the feedback from the Hulu community was ‘very reasonable’.
The best thing Kilar did, was to issue a rare (for the industry) and incredibly refreshing apology where he admits to screwing up royally in how the Hulu team handled the situation. Not just that, he goes on to acknowledge that he understands completely, exactly what the mistake was, what a better course of action would have been, and makes a point to state that the company knows its users deserve better.
Lesson #5: Promise to Learn and Improve – Then Deliver
The only thing worse than making a mistake is repeating it. And yet, we see companies apologizing for the same mistake again and again, promising each time that they will learn, improve, and grow with their community…”