Marketing June 14, 2011 18 Reads share

How Ryan Giggs Could Have Avoided The Twitter Crisis

British Soccer star, Ryan Giggs, recently took out a gagging order to prevent the press reporting on an extra marital affair he had.  There was lots of speculation in the British media about which celebrities had taken out ‘Super Injunction’ gagging orders and eventually he was named on Twitter.  When Giggs threatened legal action against Twitter tweeters responded by saturating Twitter with his name and what he had done.

It’s been interesting watching the super injunction story spread like wildfire across social media.  But there are lessons all businesses can learn about what happened to Giggs.

A ‘Super Injunction’, as it has been coined by the British Press, is a legal gagging order granted by courts in the UK.  It not only prevents media from reporting on the story that the order refers to but also prevents them from mentioning that the injunction is in place.

There were several celebrities that took out gagging orders named and shamed on Twitter but why has it all gone so wrong for Ryan Giggs?  What could he have done to smooth it over?

Research: Previous use of Super Injunctions

This isn’t the first time Super Injunctions and Twitter have clashed.  Back in 2009 Oil company Trafigura took out a gagging order to prevent the press reporting on issues relating to chemical waste.  The story was outed on Twitter and was shared and commented on across the internet.  A story that would have been almost ignored by  media now became common knowledge.

This was a high profile case and a little bit of research into Super Injunctions should have flagged that Twitter could be a problem.  Even if he still decided to go ahead with the order it surprises me that he didn’t put a plan into place in case something similar happened to him.

Put a plan in place

If you know you have done something wrong, or if there is a controversy within your industry it is wise to have a crisis management plan in place.  Think about what the worse case scenario is and decide exactly how you will respond if it happens.  For small businesses this could be as simple as thinking about how you will handle a disgruntled customer who decides to post on your Facebook wall.

BT described how to react perfectly in their social media policy

Keep calm: don’t pick fights by escalating heated discussions but be conciliatory, respectful and quote facts to lower the temperature and correct misrepresentations. Never contribute to a discussion if you are angry … leave it, calm down, and return to it at a later date when you can contribute in a calm and rational manner.”

Great advice but hard to achieve if you haven’t planned.  The situation can easily esculate if you don’t have a crisis strategy in place.

Giggs didn’t follow a strategy  he decided the best course of action was to sue Twitter for the personal details of  @SuperInjunct – the tweeter who broke the story.  Historically Twitter users don’t like their right to free speech being infringed, take a look at the Twitter Joke Trial for an example.  So what happened next shouldn’t have surprised anyone.

According to the Telegraph 75,000 people named Giggs on Twitter.  This in turn sparked MP John Hemming in the British Parliament to name Ryan Giggs as the celebrity with a super injunction.  Once mentioned in Parliament the press were free to comment on the story.

Again this mirrors what transpired in Trafigura case so plans should have been in place.  But what should he have done?

Made his own story prominent

As soon as the story broke Giggs should have made a public statement.  As the main attack was coming from social media responding with a blog post or a video seems relevant.  He should have explained his behaviour and made the necessary apologies.  Written in his own words this would have been a powerful centre to his social media crisis management campaign.

This is similar to the way that Skype handled their 2008 crisis.  It was revealed that China had been spying and archiving conversations from Skype users.  Skype immediately responded with a blog post written by their CEO.  He explained the situation and how they were going to address it.

They already had social media monitoring in place that flagged mentions of the crisis so were quickly able to respond by posting comments on blogs linking back to the statement by the CEO.  They also used pay per click advertising, utilising Google Adwords to link back to the blog post.  Within 24 hours their explanation took the number one spot on organic Google searches for ‘Skype China’ meaning  their voice was being heard first.

If Giggs had taken a similar honest and pro-active approach it is unlikely the crisis would have got so far out of control and all the inbound links would push his blog post up the Google rankings.

Responded on Twitter

Giggs was being attacked on Twitter so the best place to manage the crisis would have been Twitter.

Small businesses I talk to often site negative feedback on social media as a reason not to embrace it, however people could be out there already talking about your brand or business in a negative way.  Being an active participant in social media gives you the opportunity to respond and to showcase your customer care.  Look at Ryan Giggs, his lack of participation on Twitter at the time didn’t avert the crisis.

Yes it would be time consuming to deal with all the tweets, but armed with his blog or video response he could have addressed the most influential Twitter users helping to get his own voice heard.

And Finally

Threatening legal action against a social network or members of its community is generally going to provoke a negative response.  It was this action that tipped the Twitter users over the top provoking them to tweet about him en-masse.

Do you have anything to add?  What would you have done in Ryan Giggs place?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Amanda Webb

Amanda Webb

Hi I'm Amanda, a social media consultant and trainer who loves blogging. I work with small and medium sized businesses to help them develop social media strategies that work. I really enjoy developing my marketing and social media skills. I also love cats, cycling and cakes.

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