8 Tips for Managing a Social Media Crisis

How in the world could this have happened?!

8 tips for managing a social media crisisIt’s the middle of the night where you are but it’s early afternoon someplace else, where a group of angry customers is mounting an offensive against your brand. Negative videos have gone viral and a barrage of inflammatory tweets and Facebook posts are being hurled in your direction. Rage spills over to other social networks and influential bloggers are decimating your reputation. The social media crisis is quickly spreading, but you are silent.

The damage is widespread by the time you get to the office. Furious calls are pouring in from everywhere, including company executives demanding an explanation and an action plan. But you have no idea what triggered all the negativity, when it started, or how much it has escalated. Should you call the legal department? Should you stop publishing content? Should you reach out to your fans and followers for help? OMG!!

Social media can be a useful tool to build your company brand or a nail in its coffin.

Consider what happened to DiGiorno Pizza on Twitter. After the debacle surrounding Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s behavior, the hashtag #WhyIStayed began trending on the platform because survivors of abuse leveraged it when they shared their personal stories. DiGiorno picked on on the hashtag without knowing what it meant and co-opted it for marketing purposes. It ended badly, as you may have heard:

digiorno whyistayed hashtag fail

[This is why you do your research before you tweet.]

While it’s possible to counter a social media crisis after the fact, it makes far more sense to be prepared in advance and have a predetermined plan of attack. You must take this quote to heart:

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

– Warren Buffet

8 things your brand can do to manage a social media crisis

1. Have a plan

Every brand should have a social media policy and a community management plan. There must be a clear understanding of the steps that need to be taken should a PR crisis arise. Your plan should include having easy access your Terms of Service, so you can reference them if needed. You should also compile a list of people within your company who must be notified.

2. Pay attention

The most important thing you need to do is pay attention to what people are saying. Wading blindly into a crisis without having your arms around all the moving parts is not a good practice and can exacerbate an already-horrible situation.

3. Know what the crisis is

It’s very important to understand what the social media crisis really is, how it originated, how the fans or customers have been affected, and why others are rallying behind the issue. Use social media listening tools to monitor conversations both inside and outside your brand — this will help you shape an insightful and compassionate brand response.

4. Acknowledge it as quickly as you can

Speed matters in today’s fast-paced digital conversations. Your initial response should let the public know that you are acknowledging the issue, because ignoring it just makes everything worse. Being as transparent as possible — as quickly as possible — is the way to go.

5. Let people vent

When you respond to a social media crisis, it’s best to do so on a page you administer, such as your Twitter or Facebook profile. This will help you control the conversation.

6. Keep your cool

Never get into a public argument with users by posting something negative or argumentative in response to their comments. Doing so will only make matters worse. It’s important to take a step back and put yourself in their position so you can empathize with what they’re experiencing.

7. Create an area to house information

Develop an area on your website or blog that contains all of the information about the crisis and what your company is doing about it. When you respond to users and fans, you can send them there directly to help streamline communication.

8. Turn a negative into a positive

If you did something wrong, say so. Instead of trying to figure out where the blame lies, turn upset fans into loyal customers by taking responsibility for your actions. Own up to the issue instead of deleting customer comments about it, because deleting negative messages instead of addressing them will only add fuel to the social media fire.

  • Well stated. Much appreciated. Thanks.

  • Patricia Haag

    Pam – I really liked your tips on managing a social media crises. Poor DiGiornio’s. They did a bang-up good SME job during the World Cup, but now this. Hoping they can overcome it.

    • Me, too, Patricia. They really shot themselves in the foot — I hope they bounce back. Thanks for reading!