Social media platform Reddit has entered crisis management mode in the wake of mass protests that saw many of its messaging boards shut down.
Over the weekend, the website’s moderators made hundreds of messaging boards unavailable to the public because of the dismissal of Reddit’s director of talent, Victoria Taylor.
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The dismissal was the latest in a long series of events that have angered Reddit’s users, including website changes and anti-harassment measures.
Reddit chief executive Ellen Pao has now taken to the platform’s message boards to apologise for the company’s “long history of mistakes”.
“I mean it when I say we screwed up, and we want to have a meaningful ongoing discussion,” Pao wrote.
“I know we’ve drifted out of touch with the community as we’ve grown and added more people, and we want to connect more. I and the team are committed to talking more often with the community, starting now.”
Founded in 2005, Reddit now has more than 30 million users and is valued at $US500 million ($670 million).
Nicole Matejic, a specialist in crisis communications, told SmartCompany Pao has taken a “sound approach” to dealing with the company’s frustrated user base despite the blow-back.
“Organisationally, it could be an issue that’s been festering with their users for a long time,” Matejic says.
“It’s probably unravelled more than expected … now she’s giving them the opportunity to let the steam off a bit.”
Here are three lessons from the way Reddit handled its customer backlash.
1. Be honest with your customers
Instead of skirting around the issue, Pao immediately pointed out Reddit was in the wrong.
“We screwed up,” she wrote.
“Not just on July 2, but also over the past several years. We haven’t communicated well, and we have surprised moderators and the community with big changes. We have apologised and made promises to you, the moderators and the community, over many years, but time and again, we haven’t delivered on them.”
Matejic says when apologising to customers, it is important to not shy away from what went wrong. In fact, identifying the problem is the only way to tackle it head-on.
“Authenticity and being honest, being a person rather than a brand, is always going to be a good move,” she says.
2. Explain what steps are being taken to address the issue
Pao not only apologised in her statement to Reddit’s community but outlined how the company is going to improve moving forward.
Matejic says in her experience, this is a good tactic because managing a crisis well all comes down to actions not words.
“Anyone can talk, but the real proof comes from the action taken,” she says.
“Actually doing it speaks volumes to their credibility and reputation. Now the proof of the pudding will be them actually making the changes. They’ve said it publicly, so if they don’t they’ll head straight back into the hurt locker.”
3. Make yourself available for questions and listen to feedback
As well as outlining how Reddit was going to win back the trust of its online community, Pao encouraged people reading her post to share their feedback.
In addition, Reddit employees were on hand to respond to any comments and questions
Matejic says the most important lesson for small business owners to come from this incident is not to let issues fester.
“Deal with issues early, authentically and honestly,” she says.
“Don’t let them fester over the long term and then try to fix them, because you’re just going to make people angry over time. Have a conversation early, before everyone has a meltdown over it.”