4 Tips for Handling a Social Media Crisis

Michelle HeathersAugust 14, 2019Tips

We often hear about the brands and businesses who make a social media blunder or who don’t navigate a public relations issue the right way. But what about the brands that do? What’s their secret?

Social media allows news - good and bad - to travel faster than ever, meaning that social media crisis management has never been more important than it is now. How can you be prepared? Here are four tips to get you ready for any social media crisis that comes your way.

Create policy & establish plan

It’s hard to be able to put out social media fires if you don’t have policies in place to guide the process. Additionally, these policies should be clearly documented so that every team member is clear on how to react. Clear written guidelines can also help to lessen the likelihood of team members posting things they shouldn’t - ultimately lessening the chances of backlash due to their actions.

After the policies are in place, create a crisis communications plan. The key to handling any social media crisis is timeliness. The goal should be to respond within 60 minutes of the initial spread.

Your plan should include: how to communicate internally, the determining factors of a ‘crisis,’ pre-approved external messaging, and who will be responsible for what.

Social listening

Consistency is key. If social media is done well, and done often, it can help prevent issues from becoming full-on crises.

Frequent social listening can help you determine how consumers are feeling about your brand. It can also help make it easier to determine whether someone is simply blowing off a little steam or something far more serious.

Most importantly, social media listening provides the opportunity for you to catch and fires right from the start - allowing you to put them out before they spread very far.

Pause posting

If your brand is like most others, you’ve likely scheduled out social media posts across your platforms in advance.

Nothing adds heat to the fire more than off-topic posts during a social media crisis. This can lead to your audience thinking that your brand doesn’t take the issue seriously, and ultimately can lead to them questioning how much you actually care about your customers.

Remember the plan we discussed putting in place earlier? Ensure that someone is responsible for immediately stopping any scheduled posts from going out as quickly as possible.

Don’t argue - acknowledge

By defending your brand too early, or angrily responding in the moment, you will likely lead your audience to doubt your sincerity.

Instead, have short responses prepared that show you are listening, but do not fuel the fire. A great way to start is by publicly acknowledging the issue and announcing you will be responding soon. You can then take this time to create an official brand message.

If you find that people are consistently trying to get a response before it is ready, do your best to try and send them to your direct messages. Also, during this time, ignore the urge to delete comments or block people.

Mistakes will happen and your audience can rumble, but with the right plan in place, your brand can make it through any social media crisis.

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