How to Prevent a Social Media Crisis in Your Company?

Natalia Chrzanowska
February 4, 2015 ・ 5 min read

Today’s common access to information creates limitless opportunities for brands to develop their marketing strategies. On the other hand, it increases potential negative outcomes of corporate wrongdoings and social outrage. Information, especially negative one, spreads in the Internet so swiftly and broadly, that it is sometimes extremely hard to control. Social media crisis management is a crucial competence in a company that is present online.

Internet Full of Negative Comments

There are few reasons why it comes much easier to social media users to remark negatively on distinct topics online, even if they do not concern them directly.

First of all, the Internet gives its users a sort of anonymity. Although they publish most of data about themselves on their social media profiles (name, workplace, friends, etc.), they feel more confident in expressing their opinion. The truth is that most of hating comments would not have place in the offline world.

Secondly, people in social media feel bound to blow a whistle on a company that acts fraudulently or cause harm to a third party. This obligation is related to people’s natural honesty and the need for truth-telling. They do want to report and warn other consumers about worrying issues as they would expect the same in a situation when they lack information.

Thirdly, negative news spreads much faster. Need an example? Watch news broadcast or read a newspaper. The vast majority of news is about unfortunate accidents and scare stories.

Crisis on the Horizon

Reputation crisis can occur in the case of each industry and every brand. Don’t think that it does not apply to your company. The question is not if it happens to me but how can I prepare for this. The fastest you can detect potential or ongoing crisis the better chance of preventing it you have. The easiest and most obvious way to do this is to track mentions about your brand online. You should be up-to-date with information that people share about you. And it is not only about posts or tweets in which someone tags you. When you run a business and your brand is present online, you should think about social media monitoring tools. Why is it so important? Thanks to monitoring solutions, chances that you miss a critical situation decreases to minimum.


What to do next?

Once you find a negative opinion, you should be prepared properly to fix brand image and reduce negative outcomes. The best solution usually is to react immediately to avoid spreading outrage in social media. The most often, one simple response will help you to prevent a storm and reduce costs of brand image repair. Especially when the reach of such comment is not very wide.

When you deal with an unsatisfied customer who makes a complaint about your product or service, you should firstly apologize for ensuing situation and give him or her an explanation. Depending on the level of discontent, you should consider a proper compensation to your customer. The best solution is a free product or money refund and official apology. But what if it is not enough to reduce an outrage or what if reaction was too late?

Crisis Escalation

Corporate wrongdoings do not restrict to consumer dissatisfaction only. Sometimes the problems grow much bigger that simple explanation would not be enough to defuse crisis.


You probably remember Nestle’s reputation crisis in social media after Greenpeace mobilized critics in an online protest against the corporation. The non-profit organization alleged that Nestle’s palm oil supplier, Indonesian company Sinar Mas, was illegally deforesting the rainforests of Indonesia. Social media outburst was wider than expected. Users joined the general protest against the corporation. Nestle’s first response to the crisis is a great example of how NOT to behave in such situation. They were removing negative comments and censoring criticism, which led to tension escalation. The crisis worsened with every comment posted in social media. Nestle could have prevent this outrage or at least reduce negative effects of it. How?

Social Media Crisis Management

When social media users are indignant at something you cannot stop them from speaking. If they want to express emotions online, they will. Deleting their comments will not do any good. When the outrage is on a grand scale don’t try to pretend that nothing has happened. Firstly, let your audience wreak their anger, you cannot hold them off. Give them the time and space to speak and cool off. It is the time for you to consider your strategy and prepare explanation. When the largest wave of outrage comes, you should not write volubly about the situation. Let your audience know that you are aware of the problem, take the responsibility and apologize, but do not make on-the-spot decisions. There will be a time for the whys and wherefores later, after the storm blows itself out.

Your strategy for a crisis should be carefully thoughtout. Think of you next steps and how you can make it up to your audience. When you have your plan ready, you should make an official statement with an explanation and your next moves.The more information you provide, the more trust you win in the eyes of social media users. Your statement should also include apologies and clear information that you take full responsibility for a crisis. Certainly, there are some cases that there is someone else to blame and you are not behind a problem. However, in the vast majority of crises you should accept your fault. What is more, you should underline that you will do your best to prevent similar situations in the future.

Then comes the time for observation. Track online discussion and reactions to your statement. Provide answers to all questions and doubts. Monitor your brand in the Internet so you will not miss any mention and opinion.


How can you compensate for an inconvenience to the aggrieved? It all depends on who is the aggrieved. When a crisis concerns a harm to the environment, compensation should include some added value for the natural environment, for example by donating some organizations. When you want to make it up to a dissatisfied customer, you should give him or her a free product.

However, money is not enough to get the job done. As I mentioned before an apology and assurance that you do your best to avoid similar situation in the future are essential. What is more, try to be the most personalized as you can. If a blooper applies to a particular client, a personal letter is welcome.

To sum up, there are no problems that cannot be solved, you just need a proper tools and resources. Brand reputation is a fragile element of your brand image. It can be harmed in a matter of minutes, but rebuilding it might takes days, months or even years. Therefore, keep in mind the tips and be reasonable and alert when fighting a social media crisis.

How you solve your social media crises? Leave a comment!