How to Manage a Social Media Crisis

By Laurie Wood

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The worst time to start planning for a crisis is when you’re in the middle of one and sometimes you just never know when they’re going to drop. Pre-planning a crisis management guide will make any unexpected PR disaster easier to handle.

Before reading this article…

oh no community GIF

After reading this article…

relieved relief GIF

1) NIP IT IN THE BUD BEFORE IT GETS OUT OF CONTROL
Perhaps you wrote an edgy tweet which received some backlash, so you decided to delete it before it blows up. Now would be a good time to use social listening tools to detect any potentially harmful issues which may arise from this. If you start seeing any negative indicators prop-up, you should post a follow-up tweet, apologising for the deleted tweet.

2) TAKE A STEP BACK AND ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT’S HAPPENING
Though not all crisis’ come with early indicators. When coming into work, sitting at your desk and unexpectedly being struck with a social media crisis on your hands, you need to take a moment to evaluate and understand the situation. Ask yourself, why is everyone mad and what are they complaining about? Get your head around the ins-and-outs of the problem, speak to your colleagues in your team and around the business to get the full story.

3) UNDERSTAND WHETHER IT’S A REAL CRISIS
Someone sending in a mean message about your business does not constitute a crisis. A crisis is when the volume of public outcry begins to grow and spread like wildfire on your social presence. When identifying a crisis, you should look out for the following:

  • A string of repetitive topics – Usually a clear sign something is building momentum.
  • Crisis’ out of your control – If the weather decides to shut down your ticketed, outdoors event, expect backlash.

4) KEEP THE WIDER BUSINESS INFORMED
Alerting everyone in the business of the situation means it will not come as a surprise if asked about it outside of work and risk looking like a fool. This is especially important to employees at a higher management level. Your call-to-action is first making your line manager aware of the situation, who will then relay the message to the appropriate contacts and so on.

5) PAUSE ALL SCHEDULED CONTENT
In the middle of a crisis, nobody on your page is interested in the latest discount you’re offering, this could actually add fuel to the fire as it comes across like you’re not prioritising the real and socially damaging issue. Pause all scheduled content and outbound messages on all your accounts. Your focus at this time is to resolve a crisis, sales and customer queries can wait until you’ve made a statement.

6) CREATE YOUR RESPONSE
The tricky part and one which should not be rushed – responding to the backlash with a statement. Try to write this as genuine as possible, you don’t want to sound like a robot. Here are the steps you should take when constructing a response:

  • Acknowledge and summarise the issue
  • Give any details you can of the issue (without impacting GDPR guidelines)
  • How/when the company found out and who was made alerted
  • Actions you’re now taking to resolve the issue
  • A resolution deadline or on-going updates
  • Apologise to anyone affected
  • Steps to be taken to prevent this from happening in the future

Ensure you have proofread the statement and your line manager has read your response prior to posting. Pin this statement to all of your social account feeds.

7) IF RESPONDING INDIVIDUALLY
On the chance you might want to respond to negative comments individually, a tip is to follow the Hug Your Haters response rule of two. This means you respond only twice to that particular person in a constructive and professional way. If the agitator pursues, you walk away. This demonstrates to anyone watching that you attempted to engage with this person but ultimately as it’s not going anywhere, you know to walk away and end it.

8) KEEP FOLLOWERS UPDATED
It may take a while for the resolution to be resolved, particularly if there are processes to be had. You don’t need to share every step of the resolution process, but following up your statement after some time with a general synopsis of how things are progressing will work as a funnel in reducing negative feedback being spread on your timeline.

9) LET THINGS CALM DOWN
After making your statement and follow-up if required, you should take a step back and let things calm down before proceeding with any new content. Track your social activity and take notes day-to-day to see if it’s decreasing. You want to be at the stage where there are only a few persistent agitators left – these few will be less damaging on your feeds.

10) CLEAR UP YOUR TIMELINE
This option is totally up to you and what you feel would be best for your business. Not clearing up your timeline will mean that negativity will always be a reminder for you, your business and anyone who drops onto your page, including new followers who may want to research more about the situation. However, it does show followers you accept what has happened and you’re not trying to cover-up. Or, you can hide what you can and begin again, fresh.

11) LESSON LEARNED
It’s finally over! Most importantly, you’ve learned how to handle and avoid a crisis in the future. Keep copies of any important social documents you need, analyse how the crisis has affected your follower count and reputation and if you really wanted, offer something back to your audience as an apology for the inconvenience, i.e a discount code.

Want to learn more about how you can utilise social media? Follow me @LaurieWoodUK

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