How to Perfectly Handle a Social Media Crisis

Experiencing a social media crisis is an intense time for any business and one that hopefully you will never have to deal with. However if you do find yourself unfortunately at the receiving end of a social media crisis, you need be prepared and know what to do in that situation. This post will help you with your pre-crisis planning and provide 6 steps to successfully managing a social media crisis.

One of the key elements to successfully managing a social media crisis is pre-crisis planning and this includes;

Always Listening on your Social Media Platforms

You cannot deal with a crisis if you don’t know it’s there so it is important that you are actively watching all of your social media platforms and listening to what is being said. That way as soon as a crisis emerges you can respond immediately or as soon as protocol dictates.

Knowing What Constitutes a Crisis

Knowing what constitutes a crisis is also a very important factor. A Social Media Crisis normally has three characteristics;

  • A social media crisis is a significant change from the norm. It is expected that some negative talk will occur and this is not a crisis. It becomes a crisis however when a  different line of criticism occurs that is more serious.
  • A social media crisis is when the business does not know any more than the public about what’s going on. For example if a disaster has happened and you find out via a social media platform when everyone else does that is the sign of a social media crisis.
  • A social media crisis has a strong impact on the business as a whole. If the scale of what is being said has a large impact on the business itself then that absolutely constitutes a crisis.

Having a Crisis Plan

Every business whether big or small should have a strategy for how it will deal with a service shut down or public relations disaster. As part of your plan, you need to have clear answers to the following questions;

  • Who will handle your social media accounts in case of a crisis?
  • What will that person/people be authorized to write?
  • Who needs to be made aware of the crisis?
  • What is the response protocol?

If a crisis has broken, here are 6 steps to successfully managing a social media crisis;

Acknowledge there’s an Issue

The first thing you must do is respond to the crisis by acknowledging something has happened, even if you have no answers or solution to it yet. It is important at this stage to be genuinely sorry and apologise and acknowledge the issues on your part. It is easy to see whether a company is being genuine with their apologies, so be honest and up front and this will help you later down the line as you try to rebuild your reputation.

Respond on the Medium in Which the Crisis Broke

Once you have gathered information, you should respond first on the medium where the crisis broke. This means if the crisis broke on Facebook, then respond first on Facebook and then work your way through and respond on your other mediums. You never know where a crisis will break so you must be aware and listening on all of your social media platforms.

Create a Crisis FAQ

You will then need to create a Web page or something similar and put all the information about the crisis in one place. That way you can direct people to that page where all the answers are clearly there for them; this will save time and prevents misinterpretation of your responses.

Information provided on the crisis FAQ should include;

  • Acknowledgement of the crisis
  • Details about the crisis, how it broke, who was alerted first, when, and how
  • Specific actions taken in response to the crisis
  • Potential effects it may have
  • What is being done to prevent future occurrence
  • Contact information for complainants to get in contact

Build a Medium Where People Can Talk/ Voice their Concern

While this may seem counter intuitive, you want people to raise concerns on a medium you control. Whether it’s your Facebook page, forum, or the comments section on your Crisis FAQ, you will be able to keep more of the conversations about the crisis in a single venue, making them easier to track. If you do not provide this then you give no option but for complainants to create their own which will then give you no control of it whatsoever.

Keep Your Employees in the Know

Every employee is a potential spokesperson which makes it imperative that you keep them informed about the crisis. Whether it is by email, text message or something similar you must keep your employees in the know so that if they are approached they can respond accurately.

Learn your Lessons

After the crisis subsides, part of moving forward and rebuilding your reputation is to learn from the events that happened. This means you should create a document for your records that contains information that can guide future crisis management, highlight positives/ negative in your crisis protocol etc.

Information contained in this document should include;

  • Copies of all comments, tweets, posts, emails made during the crisis
  • Information about where the crisis broke, when it broke, where it spread and how
  • Where all relevant people informed and in the know at all times?
  • How did your response protocol work?
  • Who if anyone, rose to your defence? Those who did will later need to be thanked

Useful Resources

How big brands coped with social media crises

6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?

Are You Prepared For A Social Media Crisis?

PR Crisis Comms in Action: Top 7 Social Media Fires of 2017

What We Can Learn From the Biggest Social Media Management Nightmares of 2017

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