In our digitally-driven age, most companies will eventually encounter a social media-driven crisis. Perhaps an employee accidentally tweets an insensitive remark on the company account, or the business is suddenly caught in a whirlwind of negative commentary on Facebook. Whatever the case, you need to be prepared for any blowback that might occur – and it likely won’t be comforting.
Whether the crisis was instigated internally or externally, it’s important to develop a social media crisis plan before engaging with your communities.
Here are six tactics to help manage a social media crisis:
1. Establish Social Media Crisis Guidelines
Does your social plan account for crisis responses? Even if a post or comment seems harmless, your followers might be confused by the sudden shift in messaging. Create guidelines for responding to posts or comments during a crisis. In most internal cases, an offending post should be deleted – and a correction or apology quickly offered. For external comments, evaluate the content before deleting it – most followers won’t appreciate being silenced on the company page.
2. Respond Immediately, and Follow Through
Don’t let offending posts linger on your account. Pull them immediately, and issue an apology or retraction. This shows that you are actively monitoring your social channels – and that you give great weight to your brand’s social reputation. Follow up on this retraction post by responding to user questions and concerns, so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to hide from the crowd.
When a rogue tweet was sent criticizing President Obama on the KitchenAid account, the company’s senior director of marketing took control and invited followers to discuss the issue.
3. Be Sincere
The worst crisis response on social media is the copy-and-paste response. Companies use this to blanket networks with the same prepared remarks, often in direct response to consumer questions and comments. Such a strategy leaves the company in reactionary mode, flailing their virtual arms and hoping things will get better.
Applebee’s found itself under scrutiny earlier this year after they fired a waitress for posting a customer’s receipt on Facebook. Users flocked to the company page to express their frustrations – which prompted Applebee’s to commit several sins of social media.
After deflecting blame and trying to stifle the conversation, Applebee’s simply began publishing the same post for each commenter:
Effective crisis response begins by putting a sincere, human face behind the messaging. When a company resorts to copy-and-paste social crisis management, all sincerity and authenticity is instantly lost.
4. Use Humor…When Appropriate
It may not be effective in every circumstance, but humor can be used to quickly deflect a crisis situation. The American Red Cross posted a clever reaction tweet after one of its employees accidentally posted about her evening plans on the organization’s account:
It’s a gutsy move to respond with humor, so make sure your audience can get the joke. Otherwise, you’ve only made the problem worse by appearing aloof and desperate.
5. Monitor Scheduled Posts During Crisis Response
Social management programs like HootSuite are valuable for organizing your content, but they can also disrupt your crisis response at exactly the wrong time. As you respond to the situation, make sure any previously scheduled marketing posts aren’t published in the meantime. It doesn’t help your brand to publish unrelated content as you manage your response. Suspend scheduled posts until you’ve fully addressed the situation according to your social management plan.
This should also be done in the event of a national or global crisis, so your brand doesn’t appear disconnected or insensitive.
6. Use Follower Feedback to Update Your Response Plan
After the crisis has died down, evaluate your social team’s strategies and tactics. Research new ways to control social content, and revamp your crisis plan based on feedback from followers. Learn from your mistakes, and you’ll be less likely to repeat them.
Social media communication is instantaneous, and it can magnify mistakes in seconds. Use these tips to prevent brand miscommunication, and ensure your social management plan is fully equipped to handle crises. Your brand’s online reputation can survive an accidental tweet or post – but only if you act fast to remedy the situation.
Does your company have a social media crisis plan at the read? What monitoring tools are you using to stay on top of potential developments?