Social media provides a two-way communication channel between a business and the rest of the world which is part of what makes it so valuable. Being able to communicate with your customers and get their feedback helps you be more informed as a business. But what if something goes wrong… terribly wrong? Then you better be ready to do some quick damage control!
Preparing for a social media crisis is something every business with an online presence should do. It doesn’t take much to develop a simple strategy to have at the ready should things hit the fan – and its value is priceless if the time ever comes to use it. Think of it like an emergency preparedness kit for an earthquake. The big one might never come, but if it does you want to be prepared.
How you handle a crisis is an important reflection of you as a business. With the spotlight on you, this is an opportunity to show the world what you’ve got and show that you really care.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a social media crisis:
Monitor social media channels
First of all, make sure you are listening to what’s going on in all of your social media channels. This is something you should already be doing. Along with being proactive and responding to comments and feedback on a regular basis, you should be keeping your eye out for any negative trends. Either have someone directly responsible for overseeing and responding to social media mentions or implement a social media listening software. Make sure there’s a protocol in place for how often social media is checked or who receives the alerts – it might even be around the clock if you’re a business with a large social media following.
The second people start posting negative comments you’ll be able to respond and diffuse the situation. If the situation starts to escalate into a crisis, you’ll be right there with a plan and ready to take action. Which leads to the second tip…
Create a social media crisis plan
Put together some guidelines that will help you in the event of an emergency. Talk through different scenarios that might arise and how to deal with them. There may be different levels of conflict to deal with and each should have an appropriate solution. Write out sample responses to potential negative posts on all of your social media outlets. Outline who will take a leadership role as well as handle monitoring and responding to posts on different social media channels.
Create a strategy for when and how to take the conflict offline. How can people get directly in touch with you and who will be the main point of contact?
Train your employees
Anyone that has access to post to social media on behalf of your business should be trained on proper protocol. The business account should be used only with the good of the business in mind; it should not be used to express personal or controversial opinions. Training your employees on this will help to avoid any flair ups in the first place.
If a crisis does arise, make sure all employees are aware of what is going on and how to appropriately respond if contacted. Educate them on the steps you are taking to improve the situation and provide them with resources they can direct people to.
Be ready to take action
Be ready to implement your social media crisis plan at a moment’s notice. The best way to deal with a social media crisis is to face it head on in a polite, calm, professional, and caring manner. Don’t try to breeze by as if nothing happened. Let the public know that you are aware of the issue, that you care, and what steps you are taking to help. Don’t add fuel to the fire by being argumentative or aggressive.
Start your response at the epicenter where the crisis originated (if it started on Twitter, focus there first). Then move out to other social media outlets that may have picked this up. Be quick to respond before the situation escalates and things get taken out of proportion.
Linda Halabi is a writer and photographer who writes creative content on behalf of the digital marketing gurus at Marketing Zen. An avid traveler and culture enthusiast, she loves to fit in adventures whenever possible. When not working, you can find her exploring the outdoors, doing yoga, and cooking healthy vegetarian food. You can connect with Linda on LinkedIn.