In March, The Home Depot found themselves in a crisis situation due to a picture taken in-store and posted on a blog site. The company had done nothing wrong, and a good-natured employee had done something they thought was customer focused, but it turned out to hurt the company.

Whether it could be a sting of customer complaints on Twitter, a clutch of employees blowing off steam on Facebook on a Friday afternoon, or someone posting company video on YouTube – organizations are increasingly finding themselves in a crisis due to the avalanche of online social media sites. And don’t even get me started on the Dominoes Pizza YouTube debacle.

The threat comes from two groups of people – the harmful insider and the pissed-off outsider.

So what, if anything, should a company do to protect itself in online social media?

1 – Be prepared. First and foremost, this means paying attention to the conversation in places such as YouTube & Twitter, and where possible social media sites such as Facebook. Have people who understand the capabilities and etiquette of the forums.

2 – Don’t overreact. Hyperbole’s the stock-in-trade online. Not every action deserves a company response.

3 – Get in the game. When it’s time to respond, use the medium where the offense took place. Provide value with new information, and be sincere.

This is just the beginning...