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Five Social Media Lessons Learned From The Cisco/WebEx/Dimdim Crisis

Cisco appears to have a good social media presence with guidelines in place and a good team. What went wrong with the Cisco/WebEx/Dimdim blogger review? The Cisco social media team didn’t catch the initial review, or the subsequent Dimdim blog post. What can corporate social media professionals learn from the incident? Here are five lessons for any corporate social media:

1) Empower the social media team to monitor the web for brand interactions.

Give communications people the tools and guidelines to monitor, triage and develop a response. Cisco might have easily missed the first WebEx blogger post, but it was tough to miss the post from the competitor referenced Cisco/WebEx post. As soon as the second post was published, a monitoring team should have found the post, and attempted to resolve the issue with the blogger and Dimdim. Set up a monitoring unit within your company to find crisis communications incidents.

2) Build a triage and response work flow within a company.

It maybe that there is a monitoring unit in Cisco/WebEx but no work flow process has been negotiated within the different corporate silos and subsidiaries such as WebEx, Cisco and WebEx recently merged. Use incidents like the competitor review to build better links across the company and encourage different divisions to build their own social engagement expertise.

3) Provide social media training across the enterprise.

Everyone needs social media training, even those people expert in how to talk with the media, or old hands at social media.

4) Even the best systems fail, don’t worry about failure worry about repeating the same mistakes.

Cisco and WebEx took a hit to their brand on this incident, not necessarily because of the actions of their employee. I believe the WebEx employee genuinely needed good counsel on how to handle the unfolding communications crisis. Once given good counsel he adopted some great approaches and resolved the matter. From this outsider’s viewpoint it does appear there are some problems with the social media engagement process at Cisco, (1) monitoring should have caught the incident, (2) earlier intervention and counsel with the employee to advise them on the right strategy to use. I am sure they are working to resolve, plus we don’t know what internal communications difficulties exist when Cisco has to advise a WebEx employee, remember the two companies recently merged. Learn from their mistakes, if you have a crisis event don’t be afraid to review your processes and work to improve them.

5) Lastly respect your employees’ privacy.

In preparing for this story I’d pinged Cisco PR several times and the professionals there have done a good job explaining it is difficult to talk about the incident because it involves an employee’s personal blog. Learn from the Cisco team here, even if an incident tarnishes your brand, remember your mission and values and support your employees, even when mistakes are made.

Once again, the sequence of events:

Cisco/WebEx employee writes a review of a competitor on his personal blog. The review is critical and has some factual errors. In addition, the blogger did not disclose his relationship or publish comments submitted by the competitor.

The competitor writes a rebuttal of the original review of the post, but receives no response from the Cisco/WebEx blogger, the competitor's comments are not published.

I start writing about WebEx blogger, and ask for opinions from communications experts.

No response from the blogger or Cisco/WebEx social media team.

I contact Cisco social media team by twitter, still no response, though one of the members of the social media team tweets that they disagree with employee's post and response to competitor.

I reach out to the employee, who after some discussion and coaching decides to connect with the competitor. After a few days the competitor's comments are published, the disclosure updated and the blogger apologizes.