Posted a photo with the wrong caption? Forgot to mention the details about the live stream? Such minor mistakes can be easily corrected. These could hardly cause a critical uproar against your brand. But what if you get engulfed in a social media crisis that affects your brand image and breaks audience’s trust?
A social media crisis should be handled with utter sensitivity and care. One wrong step and you could end up ruining your company reputation completely. Damage control should be quick and well planned. A social media crisis can put your brand image in a tight position until a well thought out damage control plan is put to effect. Good social media management with a fully thought out action plan is all that you need.
The most important thing to keep in mind when handling a social media crisis is to be prepared. The better prepared you are, the easier it will be for you to handle the impact that the social media crisis will have. But even before that, you need to understand and identify a social media crisis. If you identify an impending crisis at an early phase, you are at a better position to deal with it. But what are those early signs of an impending social media crisis that you need to watch out for?
Signs of a Social Media Crisis
Preparation helps you in dealing with the crisis in a better, streamlined manner. For effective social media management in times of crisis, you need to watch out for these signs-
- When there is extreme negative criticism and uproar against your brand, that goes beyond the norm, it is a sign of social media crisis.
- Another sign to watch out for is when you get to know about the issue on social media. To put it differently, when the public has knowledge about the issue at hand, before you get to know.
- Yet another sign of a social media crisis is the enlarged scale and magnitude of an issue or problem, that is going out of your control.
If you notice any of these 3 signs, you should be prepared to take the whole situation heads on.
Here is a step by step social media management strategy that you can follow in the event of a social media crisis-
Step 1: Have A Social Media Crisis Team In Place
Before the social media crisis even strikes, it is important to have a full-fledged social media crisis team in place. The best form of social media management and preparedness is having a team of employees from the company who will be handling the different aspects of crisis management. Each of the team members should be allocated with separate duties and responsibilities. Who will be handling the internal communications? Who will be taking the responsibility of communications and PR?
When you have a social media crisis team in place, you are better prepared to deal with the crisis. A step by step manual directing the team on the when, how, what and who of crisis management should also be there. It will help you, as a team, be ready to tackle the situation easily. Moreover, having clear guidelines on whose role is what will help avoid unnecessary confusion.
Step 2: Put a Stop To All Outbound Content
Once you know that you are in crisis, you need to pause all the outbound content. If you have any content scheduled to be posted during the crisis period, you should put it on hold. At this time, your focus should be on making clarifications at first. You also need to inform all your staff not to make any communications without further notice from the senior leadership of the company.
Step 3: Publish a Statement For Acknowledging The Problem
You should acknowledge the problem by publishing a statement on social media. It is recommended to post a simple and clear statement acknowledging that you are aware of the problem. You can add on to say that you are working on dealing with the situation. You can take this time to probe further into the situation and prepare for a response to the public and media. You should make sure to publish your statement on the same social media platform on which the crisis occured.
Step 4: Monitor All Conversations About Your Brand
Start gathering all the conversations and mentions around your brand. Only once you have fully weighed out the problem and probed deeply, will you get a proper idea about the issue. You can use social media analytics tools and monitoring tools to capture all the information. Once you have all the intelligence and information on the issue, you will be better equipped to deal with the problem.
Step 5: Offer a Platform For Communication
Offer a platform where you will take all the questions as well as complaints from the audience. Ideally, you should use one of your social media handles or your website as a platform where you will take all the questions and complaints. Use this platform to communicate your side of the story as well. Provide them with a detailed summary of the situation.
Answer all the questions, queries and complaints patiently. Be prepared to face all the harsh criticism and comments from the public and the media. Don’t let the temporary negative sentiment unsettle you. Focus on keeping up with your social media management strategy.
Step 6: Learn From The Crisis
Once the crisis subsides and you are able to put out all the negativity associated with your brand, take stock of your situation. Take this a lesson in handling a crisis. You should look at all the aspects of the crisis to notice where and when you went wrong, what you could’ve done differently and so on. You should accurately track and record all the conversations and mentions about your brand.
Whether it is on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram or even blogs, maintain a record of all the mentions. All the messages, mails and comments need to be stocked and recorded. You also need to analyse how the patterns for website traffic changed following the crisis.
Most importantly, find out the reason or the trigger behind the crisis. This will help you keep from making any such mistakes in future. You should also conduct an internal audit to understand your team’s responding capabilities.Were there any problems in communicating important messages on the crisis, to the employees?
Ask yourself all these questions once the crisis is over. Learn lessons from this crisis and do not let another such situation crop up in future.
Do you want a social media crisis to ruin months or even years of hard work? Of course not. A social media crisis can be dealt with by having the right level of preparedness and a good step by step strategy.
These are the steps that you can follow to manage a social media crisis:
- Build your social media team with responsibilities allocated to each person
- Pause all outgoing conversations, content, comments, etc. including queued up content that has been scheduled
- Publish your acknowledgement statement to clear out the situation
- Monitor all the conversations and mentions about your brand
- Offer a platform where others can put forward their questions, queries and complaints. This is where you will also be providing them with all the details about the issue
- Learn lessons from this crisis so that you do not repeat such a mistake in the future