How to manage social media crisis?

Marta Marta
July 1, 2020 ・ 8 min read

How to manage social media crisis? If you are present on social media, a crisis will hit you, sooner or later. That doesn’t mean that your company has to suffer the consequences of a social media crisis. With a robust social media crisis management plan you can came out of the crisis unscathed. But to achieve this, you need to be prepared.

Social media crisis management should be an integral part of your business strategy. Hopefully, you want have to use it. But the best policy is to prepare ahead of time.

We prepared these social media crisis management tips! This article will help you prepare a solid crisis response, so you will know what to do before, during, and after the social media crisis.

Here’s what’s ahead of us today:

  • What is a social media crisis?
  • Stages of social media crisis management
  • Social media crisis management plan
  • How to effectively manage a social media crisis?
  • What is a social media crisis?

    Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of social media crisis management, let’s take a step back and answer one very important question — what is a social media crisis?

    Not every negative comment is a social media crisis. You can’t please everyone and people will voice their opinions online. Some of them will be critical towards your company or product. That’s nothing a seasoned social media manager can’t handle.

    But a surge of negative comments can be an early indicator of a social media crisis. To know when to react you need to spot any out of the ordinary behaviour.

    To be able to set benchmarks, you need to monitor and your social media channels. Once you know what to expect, you can easily spot the spikes in engagement or negative mentions.

    A higher than usual number of negative comments is not the only sign of a social media crisis.

    You should also take into account the potential damage to your business. What constitutes a social media crisis? A social media crisis is an event that could have a negative impact on your business’s bottom line.

    Stages of social media crisis management

    Social media crisis management starts well before you spot a sudden growth in the number of negative mentions.

    You can safely assume that a social media crisis will hit your company sooner or later.

    How should you start your social media crisis management process?

    There are three stages of social media crisis management:

    1. Before the social media crisis.
    2. During the social media crisis
    3. After the social media crisis.

    To protect your brand reputation, you should implement social media crisis management into your social media strategy.

    Social media crisis management plan

    Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the bulletproof social media crisis management tips.

    We divided the tips into three categories, so you know what to do before, during, and after the crisis.

    Let’s take a look!

    The first steps describe what you should do before a social media crisis.

    1. Secure your social media accounts

    Many social media crises start with hostile takeover — either by an employee who left the company and want to take some sort of revenge or by simply sharing the password with some third parties.

    There are a couple of actions you can take to minimise the chances of social media crisis.

    First of all, minimise the number of people that have password to your social media accounts. Centralised password system will allow you to implement strong passwords and revoke the access of the employees who no longer need it.

    Secondly, always set up a two-factor authentication system. This will give you greater control over who tries to login oto your social media accounts.

    2. Monitor what people say about your company

    To prevent a social media crisis from escalating and reaching brand new audiences you need to nip every potential crisis in the bud.

    In today’s always online world, you need to know what is happening around your brand almost immediately.

    To monitor your brand effectively, you need a social listening tool.

    We’ll base our examples on Brand24, because it’s one of the most robust and affordable media monitoring tools on the market.

    First, you need to set up a trial account. In the project creation wizard, enter the keywords you’d like to monitor online.

    Think about:

    • the name of your brand, product, or service
    • your branded hashtag
    • your campaign hashtag
    • the name of your CEO or other well-known employees
    • term strictly related to your industry

    You might wonder why should you monitor phrases related to industry? Isn’t it a bit of a stretch?

    The problem is, your competitor’s crisis can affect your business. That’s why, you should keep your finger on the pulse and check what is going on with other companies.

    Once you set up a project, a media monitoring tool will start collecting public online mentions containing your keyword.

    print screen showing the volume of mentions and sentiment, two metrics which could serve as an indicator of social media crisis

    Thanks to media monitoring, you will be able to:

    • know about any negative sentiment around your brand in an instance which makes it easy to prevent crisis from escalating
    • prepare benchmarks to easily spot sudden spikes in the volume of mentions
    • manage your hashtags marketing campaigns — it might not seem like a social media crisis management issue, but you have to know how your campaign is performing

    Track your social media mentions! Try for free (no credit card required).

    3. Establish social media guidelines

    Your weakest link in during the social media crisis might be one of your employees. The good news is, it’s relatively easy to protect yourself against rough employees.

    To prevent your employees from starting a social media crisis, it’s a good idea to create a social media guide.

    Add all the do’s and don’ts to the guideline. Of course, the specifics will vary according to your business niche, but it’s generally a good idea to add the following rules:

    1. Copyright. That’s an absolute basic, no matter what kind of company you run. Every employee with access to your social media accounts should know how to use and credit content.
    2. Privacy. Some interactions with your audience should take place in an open space, while other should be move to private messages. Make sure everyone knows the difference.
    3. Brand voice. Is your company’s voice formal or informal? Do you joke around? Make sure everyone knows how to post.
    4. Brand style. Social media are visuals platforms. Make sure that all your posts, stories, and movies are aligned together.

    4. Design a crisis communication plan

    Before a social media crisis hits, you should prepare a crisis communication plan.

    Having a crisis communication plan in place will ensure that you will act fast and efficient. Your social media crisis response team will know how to act and won’t have to wait for C-level decisions.

    A crisis communication plan should detailed who is responsible for what. Everyone in the company, from the C-level to the most junior employees should know what to do.

    Remember to prepare two means of communication — internal and external one. Your employees should know what is going on and receive regular company updates.

    On the other hand, you should also include external communication guidelines. First, draft messages you could post on your official channels. Secondly, develop an approval process for your official communication.

    You might wonder why should you prepare draft messages. You never know what type of crisis will hit you.

    But you can be certain it will hit you.

    And once you have to deal with a full blown social media crisis, you will have to act fast. Crisis communication plan will ensure that people will know what to do.

    Once you are prepare to manage the crisis, you can focus on what to do during the social media crisis.

    5. Stop scheduled posts

    Your social media manager probably has fully booked social media calendar.

    But once a social media crisis hits your brand, it’s time to stop all scheduled posts. Scheduled communication will make you look a bit silly and might further damage your brand.

    Some pre-scheduled social media posts can hinder all your crisis management efforts.

    Once you start implementing social media crisis communication plan, stop all scheduled posts.

    6. Respond on social media

    Social media crisis management starts with crisis communication. The plan should contain a detailed response to the crisis. Once you post the first message and acknowledge the social media crisis, it’s time to engage on social media.

    There are a couple of rules you should follow:

    • be present on social media. Once a social media crisis hits it’s not a good idea to hide. Brace yourself and respond to comments and questions.
    • never get emotional. Many Internet users will express a lot of negative comments. You should answer them calmly and try to resolve any heated discussion in private messages
    • don’t defend your position at all cost. Some people will argue with you just for the sake of the argument. If you see that the discussion is going nowhere, simply state your position clearly and stop answering.

    7. Communicate with your employees

    It’s vital that your employees know exactly what is going on. A social media crisis can damage your brand reputation and negatively affect your bottom line.

    One thing you don’t need during a social media crisis is gossip among your employees.

    Make sure everyone is on the same page. Every employee should know what they can and cannot say about the crisis. This will help you contain the spread of misinformation and rumours.

    Hopefully, these tips will help you survive a social media crisis. But social media crisis management doesn’t stop here. There is still one step ahead of you — the post-social media crisis management.

    8. Evaluate your social media crisis response

    Learn from experience.

    Once you stave off the social media crisis, debrief your team and examine what happened. Note everything you have done and determine the effects of your actions.

    Speak with members of all teams and identify the strong and weak points of your social media crisis response. Other departments can share interesting insights you can implement into your social media crisis management plan.

    How to effectively manage a social media crisis?

    The good news is, social media crisis can give you a chance to build a stronger brand.

    To effectively manage a social media crisis you need to be prepared and don’t panic once a crisis hits.

    Remember about pre-social media crisis management phase. Preparing for a social media crisis will save you some time in the first phase. You can use this time to prepare for the second phase of social media crisis management.

    Stay calm during the crisis and engage with your followers. Present your side of the story and try to resolve the most heated discussions in private communication.

    At the end, evaluate your crisis management approach. There are aspects of your communication you can improve to prepare better for the next social media crisis.


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