How to Manage a Social Media Crisis

Being prepared for a social media crisis will ensure that you get back on your feet quickly, and limit the damage to your business’s reputation.

In this digital age, having a strong social media presence is a must for any business’s marketing strategy. However, there are a number of things that can go wrong that you need to prepare for through your social media management.

What could a social media crisis look like?

A social media crisis can be something that occurs offline and then is brought on to social media, or it can begin on your social platforms. This can begin with any negative opinions or information about your brand, such as:

  • Inappropriate posts from employees or ex-employees
  • Insensitive or out-of-touch statements
  • Negative opinions about your company’s services or products
  • Account hackings

A crisis is more than a one-off comment or complaint – think about the scale and scope of the criticism. When criticism has a material impact on the business, this is when it becomes a crisis. This could be a barrage of negative comments or even a boycott of your products.

How can I avoid a social media crisis?

It’s impossible to guarantee that you will never face a social media crisis, no matter how careful you are. However, there are some things you can do to minimise the risk.

Create a team social media policy

Having clear guidelines for your team has a variety of benefits, including creating a cohesive brand tone across all of your social media platforms. However, it can also help you avoid out-of-touch or controversial posts.

Monitoring your social media

Queuing posts ahead of time means that there is time for another team member to double-check content for any potential errors. Remember that even if the content is spot on, a spelling or grammar mistake can also lead to a crisis see our blog post on how capitalising hashtags would have saved #SusanAlbumParty from causing controversy as #susanalbumparty!

Agreeing on what constitutes a ‘social media crisis’

If your team doesn’t know how to identify a crisis in the early stages, this can delay your response and allow the situation to escalate. Having clear guidelines within your social media policy will help your team to identify a potential crisis before this happens.

Listen to your audience

One-off complaints can escalate into a crisis if the issues raised continue to get worse. Your audience is a valuable source of feedback for identifying your business’s strengths and weaknesses. So social media crises aside, it’s super important to take feedback onboard rather than ignoring issues and letting them snowball.

You can monitor your online image but searching social media platforms for mentions of your brand, your competitors, and other keywords that are related to your brand. There are ‘social media listening’ tools that you can use to help, or you could set up Google Alerts and keyword searches.

Stay secure

Hacking is any business’s worst nightmare. Ensure only trusted members of your team have access to your social media passwords, or even better, use features like TweetDeck to allow employees access without providing them with log-in details. Here are some other ways you can keep your social media accounts secure:

  • Change your passwords often
  • Use secure passwords that aren’t obvious
  • Use two-factor authentication: this will require a second piece of information after a password, such as a PIN, or mobile authentication.

How should I respond to a social media crisis?

It’s important to incorporate crisis planning into your social media management so that you aren’t caught off-guard and can respond quickly and appropriately. Responding in the right way can save your business’ reputation while responding in the wrong way can spell disaster.

Stop all scheduled posts

Carrying on with ‘business as usual’ will appear out-of-touch, and make it appear as if you aren’t taking the crisis seriously. So, suspend all scheduled content until the crisis is over.

This extends to crises that aren’t specific to your business. For example, if your area is experiencing a local crisis, such as a flood or pandemic-related social restrictions, carrying on with regular content can feel insensitive when customers are focused on their wellbeing. In this case, changing up your content to offer support to your audience can be a good move when done appropriately.

Engage with your audience, but don’t argue

It’s important to address your audience’s concerns to do damage control. Putting out a sensitive and impactful statement can help to resolve your audience’s concerns. Accept their judgment of your business, and don’t argue, as this will only make things worse.

Plan ahead of time and respond quickly

While normally it would be acceptable to respond to messages and comments after a few hours or even a day, a crisis means responding as quickly as possible. Planning ahead of time can help you to do this. Brainstorm potential issues that might result in a crisis, and create an action plan accordingly. It’s good to have statements and accompanying graphic templates ready to go.

This isn’t to say that you should rush a public apology. Spend time adapting a prepared statement to ensure it is sensitive and meaningful. A long-form, genuine explanation will come across much better than a brief ‘sorry’.

It can also be difficult to respond quickly when you are a small business that doesn’t have the time for 24/7 social media monitoring. This is where social media management services can be helpful.

Learn from the experience

When the crisis is over, discuss with your team what went well, and what could have gone better. Use the experience to inform not only your future social media strategy but your brand’s overall strengths and weaknesses. This might mean making ethical changes to your business or redesigning your products to be better.

As with everything in the world of social media, both planning ahead and being responsive at the same time are crucial when responding to a social media crisis. Though your business may never experience a crisis, being prepared and having preventative strategies in place can have a host of other benefits for your business. For example, having clear social media guidelines and listening to your audience can strengthen your brand’s image.

If you want more advice or help with your social media management, get in touch with us today to see how we can help.

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