Step-by-Step Guide to Manage a Social Media Crisis
Effective Ways to Address a Social Media Crisis: A Practical Guide for Brands
Brands should be aware, now more than ever, of the presence of the social media mob and how its impact can dictate the reputation of a brand. The mob can either work for your benefit, giving you a steady influx of engagement on your posts, or it could burn your brand to the ground with just a slight misstep.
In fact, every social media strategy should now consider detailing not just the positive KPIs but also potential negative repercussions of a campaign. A social media crisis can bring a brand from being down on its lowest form to even being blacklisted by the masses in just a span of a few hundred posts.
Tried and tested ways to manage a social media crisis: A step-by-step guide
It could prove to be a detriment to your goal to improve conversion rates if you’re stuck on putting out fires frequently instead of focusing on your brand’s growth. Though the potential disasters of what a social media crisis may rattle the perception of your brand, you should always remember that no catastrophe is unfixable. One of the first steps to facing a catastrophe is preparation. Here are 12 steps that can help you prepare for the worst in the world of social media.
1. Create a social media policy
Every company has its own tone and mood with their social media accounts. Traditionally, more formal and business-related brands such as law firms or health care services have a calm and serious tone with how they interact with their clients. Fast-food chains and hobbyist stores employ a quirky attitude with their messages to heighten their enthusiasm towards their potential customers.
Being present in social media allows you to have an open line of communication from service provider to client. Though this bridge of trust can also be a double-edged blade if you don’t know how to handle the relationship well. A social media policy should be drafted to ensure that you and your employees have a clear understanding of what can and can’t be said online; these guidelines include issues on:
- Branding: On what tone of voice your employees should use in communicating with clients and business partners.
- Copyright: With regards to dealing with shared third-party content posted on your platforms.
- Confidentiality: Limit and protect what can and can’t be shared publicly about your business practices and employees’ confidential information.
- Privacy: Specify when your interactions with clients should be discussed in a public thread or through a private conversation either through DMs or email.
You should have a clear and thorough orientation session with your social media managers in order to keep your brand consistent and effective not just in terms of dealing with promotions but also in communicating with clients online.
2. Set up a listening program for your company
How the Instagram model works is that it generates engagement to and from a product through the user; this can be in the form of liking, commenting, or sharing posts. In the same way, social media news travels fast from one user to the next, with mutual circles raising the visibility of posts making it more prone to being seen by people outside their circles.
A listening program tracks the mentions of keywords related to your company, whether it be through your brand name, products, hashtags, or personnel; this can both be used to track positive and negative engagement. Having a dedicated team to monitor this program can keep you alerted ASAP if you’re facing negative feedback from netizens.
3. Document your social media crisis plan
Keep an accessible and easy to navigate social media crisis plan accessible to all your employees, not just your social media managers. Keeping everyone in the loop will make it easier for you to disseminate and affirm confirmation from your staff so that you may handle the situation smoothly without any unnecessary mistakes on your party’s end.
4. Know what should be considered a crisis
Whether for better or for worse, a lot of other brands and companies have already dealt with various social media crises. Even the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, has had frequent run-ins with typos on his official Twitter account, resulting to being mocked by netizens online. But these shouldn’t qualify as a high-level crisis that needs damage control.
A major example of a social media crisis brings to mind the mismanagement of United Airlines in 2017 with regards to removing a seated passenger in line with their overbooking policy. The violent video immediately went viral with the post reaching news networks, which put United airlines in a disastrous position in a matter of days.
Use the history of other personalities and brands to your advantage by preparing for what they’ve already faced. The closer they are to your industry, the more likely it is that you might encounter what they had trouble with in the past.
5. Create a social media crisis scale
A social media crisis scale can make it easier for you to classify whether an altercation with a customer through social media should be taken lightly or not. The scale can be measured in terms of numbers, the sheer number of individuals involved in the issue, or the notoriety of the individuals involved, whether they’re big-name celebrities or well-known professionals in the industry. Though the latter is easier to identify and can be isolated into small but impactful crises, the former requires the involvement of a scale to assess. To properly gauge it, the scale should look like this:
- Low-level threat – One unsatisfied customer unsatisfied with their product or service experience.
- Medium-level threat – A large group of individuals unsatisfied with your actions.
- High-level threat – News publications and other organizations contributing to the issue.
You can also craft your own scales depending on the individuality of your business processes. Make sure that you have quantitative factors to consider in measuring your potential threats so that you won’t have a hard time defining which level of crisis control should be used with which level of threat.
6. Secure your accounts
Though some crises occur through hacking, as proven by the major Sony Pictures leak in 2014 which occurred in retaliation against the development of the film, The Interview (2014), the more unruly types of netizens usually take a crack at your security after you’ve gained attention. These hackers would try to either poke fun at your situation or even go as far as to leaking confidential conversations and documents from your accounts to the general public.
Double-check the security of your platforms once you’re sure that you’ll be dealing with a crisis soon. Changing the passwords of all your accounts could be a decent course of action in ensuring that you won’t be facing any leaks to the public.
7. Craft a crisis communication plan
A crisis communication plan is usually developed after you create your social media crisis plan. Once the specific indicators of what should be considered a major issue are present, you now have to begin connecting the dots on who should answer what depending on the gravity of the situation. Is a social media manager enough to handle it? Should an HR executive take over? Or does it require someone from upper management to give their word on the issue? Having a communication plan makes it easier for your company to track down who should be contacted and made aware of a situation so that you may respond and act on the issue in a swift but coordinated manner.
8. Respond immediately when the crisis strikes
Once you’ve determined that a social media crisis is at hand, be quick to respond immediately but not without thinking the right response first. If the issue is too complex to answer right away or if it would require approval from a higher chain of command, don’t wait too long to respond. The social media mob attacks quickly, aggressively, and in huge numbers if you don’t stop them on their tracks. Leave a message that you will answer their need for a response within at most one business day and get back to them ASAP with a comprehensive response within 48 hours.
9. Stop all scheduled posts
The benefit of being an integrated mobile-driven business in today’s time is that your processes are manageable even while you’re on the go, which means you can cease all operations even if you’re not in an office setup. Throughout the duration of dealing with the issue, make sure that your scheduled posts for the month, or even further, should be stopped so that you won’t appear to be ingenuine by posting promoted content while dealing with a crisis at hand. The urgency in responding to these issues is key, especially since every minute on the social media clock counts.
10. Remember the response rule of two
What you have to remember in managing social media accounts of a brand is that you are responsible for being the face of everything that your brand represents; that means everyone from your customer care employee to your CEO. The response rule of two states that you should, at most, respond only twice to an individual in social media public threads. Instigating a longer dialogue could make you appear defensive or could drag your client to bring people on their side of the argument. Continue the dialogue through DMs if necessary to avoid making more of a public spectacle on the issue.
If the issue requires more than just responses from your side of the issue, it may be helpful to gather more data and to continue the conversation on a thread that you yourself will post to engage your followers. Not only does this funnel in the discussion to your channel, but this also makes you appear accountable and open to a conversation on the crisis at hand. After collecting the responses on the thread, you may post a detailed FAQ post that seeks to answer the queries and confusions on the issue to avoid the spread of misinformation from different channels.
11. Evaluate what happened after the dust settles
Once you’ve finally taken a breather and numbers have stopped dropping significantly in terms of negative engagement and loss subscribers, get a damage report in terms of how much you’ve lost and how much infamy you’ve gained. Unfortunately, your brand might be wearing that badge of shame either for days or weeks, depending on the attention span of the general public with regards to current events and trending news. Use the information you’ve gathered as an added case study to improve your social media crisis plan for future use.
12. Learn from the experience
A social media crisis is, of course, a setback to your goals for the quarter, or even for the year, but it shouldn’t stop you from using the experience as a way to build your brand’s image in a positive light. Use it to your advantage by recounting the experience as a testament to your brand’s integrity and perseverance to your followers. Though the social media mob likes to burn what they hate to the ground, they also love an underdog rising back up from the dirt.
The first step that you should always make in a crisis is to be prepared beforehand, trust your crisis plan, and to execute effectively your plan internally and externally. That way, you’ll be able to avoid being on the wrong side of the argument when it comes to dealing with an internet audience who are as unrelenting as they are unforgiving.
But no matter how effective your planning may be, you can never truly be 100% ready to face a crisis. But that should never be the cause of your defeat in facing a crisis. You should always remember to keep calm and guided by the steps you’ve made so that you can adapt to the situation without being swayed by the emotions brought about by the social media crisis. Ensure that you and your staff are equipped and properly oriented to face any potential issue and remember to keep a solid line of communication that allows for enabling action, brainstorming, and evaluation of the events that have transpired.
Gabby Roxas is a writer, editor and content manager. Her mission is to help start-up business to community companies to generate more leads. You can follow her on Twitter @GabbyRoxas2