How to manage a social media crisis

social media crisis, crisis management

Dealing with Criticism or a Crisis

At some point, things are going to happen that are out of your control. Maybe that’s an event or a disgruntled customer, but either way your brand has hit a social media crisis that needs to be dealt with. The larger the brand, the bigger the mess. This is likely to play out on your social media channels, because that’s where people go these days to get a response.

And if you have negative comments, as a brand you DO need to respond, which is why the person in charge of your social media needs to be able to cope with this scenario. Make sure you have a social media manager with experience both in marketing strategy and team management who can handle a crisis discreetly and sensibly.

The New York Times tells us that that anger is the emotion which spreads fastest on social media.  It’s no surprise then that outraged opinions on poor service or substandard products spread fast. Such anger can gain momentum and quickly blow out of control, so it pays to be prepared.

Use social listening

You will be able to identify a crisis early if you are monitoring your business & industry on social media. You need to monitor the company name & prominent figures, your competitors, your main products and anything else which might be relevant.

Act quickly

A social media crisis can escalate quickly within an hour and yet it generally takes businesses much longer than that to react. Control the crisis early and you may manage to avert the worst. Use the nature of social media to your advantage and post a statement quickly so that it will spread quickly.

Leave no comment unturned

If there’s a negative comment, don’t ignore it and hope it will go away. It won’t.  First, assess the truth of the comment. If it shows you a flaw in your own services, make it right and learn from the criticism. The customer is not always right but they’re not always wrong either.

While you should let people have their say, don’t argue with them. Social media expert Jay Baer says ‘crisis management is a spectator sport.’, so let people see you handling it well.

Be helpful in public

If others have seen the offending comment they need to see a response from you also. If you can fix it in public then do, but if it shows signs of escalating take it out of the public eye by diffusing the situation and asking to sort out for them via message.

Don’t block those who don’t agree with you

This might be the easy way out but it may be a route you regret. Everyone deserves a point of view, and even if you block them they can still talk about you on social media. You just can’t see it.

Avoid corporate speak & statement repetition

The social media world hates corporate speak. If you need to reply to a negative comment or make a statement on something that has happened, be human about it. And if you start needing to reply to multiple negative comments, that’s your crisis. Don’t keep repeating the same thing to individual comments, the social media world hates that too. Here’s what happens when you annoy your customers like that after mishandling a potential crisis: a lesson from Applebees on what NOT to do.

Your social media policy

If you don’t already have one, create a social media policy document now that you can put in the About section of your social media channels. This will include your policy on what you allow to be posted on your pages. For instance you can say that you don’t allow comments which are disrespectful of others.

This way, if you do need to block a user or delete a comment you can refer them back  to your page policy. Blocking and deleting should really be a resort reserved for trolls and spammers though; dissatisfied customers have a valid point of view which needs to be heard.

Get the management team involved

If a crisis hits, everyone needs to know what to do. Your crisis strategy should be in line with other departments and should be aligned with company strategy as a whole. This way you will be able to act quickly and authoratively when the worst happens.

You should include details of who needs to be contacted, and guidelines for all employees of how they should comment (or not) if required.

It would be a good idea to have a practice run-through for this as for your other crisis plans.

Keep tabs on all the messages

If posts are coming in thick and fast it can be difficult to keep track of them. Use a social media monitoring tool or multiple tabs to keep track of the messages and if they have been answered.

Own your mistake

If the company has made a mistake, own it, apologise, and quickly. Don’t be defensive, but do be humble.

Don’t use a verbatim PR message: social media is personal and needs a personal response. A crisis handled well can actually turn into an asset.

Learn from your mistakes

When the crisis is over, hold a debrief session and discover what you did right and what you did wrong. Amend your policy so that you can do it all right next time.

 

Do you have a crisis management plan in place for your social media channels?

Do you have an experienced social media manager who will be able to keep themselves and everyone else calm in a crisis?

If you’d like to chat further about this or need help putting a crisis management strategy in place for your marketing we’d be happy to help.

Cathy Wassell
I help businesses with social media & marketing strategy and management.

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