Are You Ready for Your Social Media Crisis?

Image Credit: Hasan Almasi

Image Credit: Hasan Almasi

Alright, I know the image is a little dramatic. We sincerely hope this isn’t what your social media crisis looks like, although it may represent how you may feel when or if it happens. Now we’re not talking about when someone sends a mean tweet or even share something unsavory about you. We’re talking about how you will respond if or when crisis or controversy hits the fan regarding your business or someone’s experience with your business.

Social media managers for any business should have what’s commonly called, “Social Media Marketing Strategy” if they're serious about what they do. I suggest that more should include a Social Media Crisis Plan within their strategy. In this day and age is bound to happen; someone hacks your Twitter account and begins publishing propaganda or negative statements that immediately causes alarm. You need to have a plan of action in place to address the crisis.

It’s not out of the ordinary for a company to deal with a crisis via social media these days, some handle it better than others. Most understand things happen, but how a company deals with it the incident is the difference in whether they’ve made the problem better or worse.

When you find yourself (your brand) embroiled in a crisis, the best thing for you to do is to be honest, sincere and handle it with speed. Most people understand the difference between a simple mistake and complete disrespect to you just don’t care or get it. Any social media manager worth two cents will tell you that communication is key, especially when it comes to social media.

There are a number of examples for how not to handle a crisis on social media than how you should handle it. Having a Social Media Crisis Management Plan is just as important as your Social Media Strategy and Content Calendar. Below are a few things you can do to help craft one for your organization.

First, ensure the entire marketing and/or social team has each other's contact info as well one another’s after hours contact information. I would include who is responsible for managing your website as well. I can not urge this any more than I am here. Please make this a priority during any social media crisis; ensure ALL scheduled posts across ANY of your social media channels, whether they’re organic or paid are immediately canceled or at least postponed until further notice.

The next thing is to make sure that more than one person has access to your social channels as well as your social content management tool. Make sure all key contacts know how to deactivate or postpone advertising and scheduled posts. Then take to Twitter. Immediately post something to nature, "Our official statement regarding the incident will be issued shortly." My recommendation is to provide a similar statement on each of your social channels or invite them to follow the updates on a specific social channel such as, “We will use Twitter as our primary information channel. Find us @companyname."

Now as the Social Media Manager this is when you let the Public Relations department or firm take over with all messaging on Twitter, depending on the size of your organization. In an ideal world, they will tweet additional information within minutes of the first post depending on the organization and scale of the crisis. Now on all other social channels, it will be wise to remain completely silent until the crisis is under control. You do not want to make it worse or start additional fires. Error on the side of caution if you are unsure when to return to normal activities.

Ensure that you are updating Twitter regularly with official information. Ideally, you are linking back your statements as posted on your website. Your public relations, legal and/or executive team should drive all decisions on which inbound Twitter questions get answered and which get ignored. The purpose is to find resolution and defuse the situation in a way that things go back to normal as quickly as possible.

This is a subject that I’ve always found to be fascinating. It’s easy to think that it will never happen to you, but that is a naive notion to rest upon these days. You may be the social media manager for Grandma’s Sweet Chocolate Cookies and no one could ever not like grandma’s sweet chocolate cookies... well until someone says something that raises a question about the content of those cookies or how they’re made or served to them. It doesn’t take much for something to derail a normal day. So be prepared, have a Social Media Crisis Management Plan in place and review it so you will be ready to use it.