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How To Manage A Social Media Crisis

Online reputation management

Would you know how to manage a social media crisis? Having a presence on digital and social media platforms exposes you and your brand to public opinion. These may not always be favourable towards your brand, personal character, or be a true reflection of your products or services.

Having a strategy in place to deal with any potential fall out will put you in a good position in the event of a crisis on your digital platforms.

What Is a Social Media Crisis?


A social media crisis is an event that takes place outside of your normal operating pattern, is out of your control, and can negatively impact the reputation of your brand.

A crisis can start anywhere and find its way onto your social media profiles quite easily. If unprepared, you could find yourself making rash decisions that flame the crisis and publicly damage your reputation further.

Social media has made it possible for audiences to connect with brands and individuals on a human level, it is almost second nature for some users to make a complaint, or share content damaging to you or your brand on multiple platforms. 

While the user might not always appreciate the damage they might be doing by highlighting a grievance in public, it is a tactic used commonly to drive an outcome that is more beneficial to the consumer. 

A crisis can be started in a number of ways:

  • Public comments made by employees or senior management
  • Content in the media.
  • Social media personalities
  • Issue with a product or service
  • Online trolls
  • Competitors
  • Business practices

How Do I Prepare For a Social Media Crisis?


Preparing for a crisis gives you the best opportunity for reducing the amount of lost sentiment from any event. Being able to see a trend emerging gives you the opportunity to be proactive and have some control over any social media crisis that could be unfolding.

Use a listening tool: The use of listening tools give you the opportunity to see the level of public sentiment around your brand. Social Media Management Tools such as HubSpotSprout SocialHootsuite and Buffer all have features that allow you to track some conversations within a reasonable budget. Social listening industry leaders such as Brandwatch have subscriptions running into 5 figures and may well be outside the budget of most small businesses.

Have a social media policy: Having a staff social media policy in place allows you to set expectations on the etiquette staff are expected to display when online. The direction this takes may well depend on your industry and whether many of your staff are customer facing. It is not unheard of for social media policies to have some impact on personal profiles.

Have a social media crisis strategy in place: Your time could be limited and you will need to react quickly before community management is lost on your social media platforms. Having a strategy allows you to have a process to follow, guidelines, staff responsibilities, and how internal and external communications will be managed. 

Put together a crisis management team: Your crisis management team can be built from staff within various departments including marketing, customer services, senior management and PR. Be sure that everyone knows their role and what is expected.

Consider a shut down process: Some social media management tools have the ability to shut down your content scheduling, auto replies, and other engagement activities in an instant. If you are experiencing a crisis this may be useful way for avoiding addition comments and keeping in touch with the current situation unfolding.

Test Your Strategy: The best way to prepare, is often to practice. Testing your strategy using simulations can help drive a mindset with your crisis management team and prepare them for any future events. This is a good opportunity to get feedback and iron out any areas that are not performing as expected.

How To Manage a Social Media Crisis?


Knowing how to manage a social media crisis will determine how much of a negative impact the event erodes trust between your brand and stakeholders. Any crisis strategy should have the primary goal of protecting your brand reputation, and that of any key spokespersons.

Know whether or not you are in a crisis: Sometimes it is easy for an over reaction to take place on digital platforms. Stakeholders can ask difficult questions, and post negative content publicly when they are dissatisfied. This can often escalate into fiery conversations. Determining what your organisation deems is a crisis will avoid the chances of anyone overreacting.

Make an assessment of the situation: What is happening? How many users are involved? Are outside influences fanning the flames? Is the media or a known influencer involved. Make sure you have the full picture before deploying your crisis management team or any external communications.

Internal and External Communications: Communication is imperative to your success. Ensuring your crisis management team is synching information with other internal departments makes sure everyone is on the right track. Information sharing and transparency on the situation can reduce the chances of misinformation spreading.

Use your brand ambassadors, Advocates & Influencers:  Think about using brand ambassadors or advocates to enter online conversations. They are often trusted more than brands themselves, and can help to to diffuse hot topics before they reach the point of a full blown crisis. Be sure to deploy ambassadors and advocates strategically, and that they are well informed on any crisis event.

Do not get involved in heated debates: Although the conversation may be about your brand, avoid entering any conversations that could turn the situation further negative. This could damage trust further between yourself and the negative audience.

Avoid censoring comments: Deleting or hiding comments can be seen as a form of censorship. Only remove comments that are a clear breach of your community guidelines, or that are non factual. Removing content posted by your audience can often be seen as a sign of guilt, or that what has been posted is factually true.

Do not stay silent: Staying silent is a tactic that can fare well. If you have nothing good to say, do not say anything at all! This is especially true if you do not have all the facts, or are still investigating.

Try to be timely when communicating and ensure your public spokesperson is able to keep to facts and not bring the company further into disrepute.

Assessing Your Crisis Management Strategy


Post crisis you will want to review how well your strategy performed. Unless your marketing is edgy and you thrive from crisis events. Chances are you will not want to experience another. There are some questions you may want to ask to ensure your strategy going forward is adequate.

  • Did the strategy actually work?
  • What went right, and what went wrong?
  • Was there anything missed that affected the outcome?
  • What was the feedback from internal departments?

It is important to debrief and discuss the experiences that each member of the crisis management had. Ultimately no two crisis events may be exactly the same, so having a broad strategy with numerous scenarios will put place your brand in a good position.

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