From tasteless tweets, to images shared on Facebook that never should have never even been created, much less posted on our favourite pages, social media crisis management has never been more important.
By its very nature, what makes social media such a powerful tool also makes it a very dangerous place, where the smallest of mistakes can bring about plenty of negative repercussions for a brand. Prevention is better than cure but in today’s day and age where it is seems more like a “when” instead of an “if”, it is paramount that brands today to establish a robust, comprehensive social media crisis strategy, taking pre-emptive action to prevent a crisis turning into a full on disaster.
What can I do before and during a social media crisis?
There are a couple of things you can do to prepare. You can improvise some of the measures on the list below – but having a well-trained social media team that knows what to do at any moment is key. But crises will happen at the worst times ever, even exactly when you don’t want it to.
Here are ten tips you that help you protect your online presence and brand identity.
1. Be prepared
You should have a communication process that connects everyone in your business. Such processes should be stored on a document and trainings should be implemented around those procedures. If you run crisis trainings at your company, include your social media team and their work into it. Put formal steps into a crisis manual, define types of crisis, roles that employees will play, and make decision-making processes as short as possible. A well-oiled community management solution can help save valuable time before the crisis reaches unmanageable levels.
2. Control the process
Some crises are close to impossible to foresee or stop. To be frank, most are self-inflicted. An angry, ex-employee with access to the social media accounts? A marketing team that hasn’t informed their social media team about a new, edgy campaign? These are points where you can minimize the chance of a crisis by connecting communications between teams while simultaneously managing access to public channels through tools and security measures.
If more than 5 people in a 100+ employee company currently have your social media login details, reduce that number.
There are cases when a fast reaction to a critical position actually stopped a crisis in its tracks. In 2011, the Austrian Rail Service (ÖBB) was criticized on Facebook for not offering their train stations for the homeless in a cold winter so the ÖBB reversed the critique by offering heated train carriages and food from the Red Cross. This was possible due to a quick notification process from the social media team to the head of digital and a (physically) short process from the head of digital to the CEO – they literally had their offices next to each other.
3. Educate your employees
Social media literacy is not a nice-to-have for modern businesses, it’s vital. In our world, every employee with an active LinkedIn account is a spokesperson for your company. So teach them how to communicate – or when in doubt, and in crisis, not to communicate.
4. Define the rules for social media profiles
Use the Facebook imprint feature or provide a page with clear rules on how to communicate on your profiles. This won’t stop the crisis, but it will give you a clear structure and it should be clear when and how to intervene.
5. Prepare templates
The first minutes of a social media crisis are crucial. There is nothing worse than having a social media team in the office, looking at their screens, unable to act during the first wave of “attacks”. Keep a simple: “We are currently looking at this situation” template in your database – ideally in your community management tool.
6. Inform your team and stop posting
One of the least helpful things that can happen in a crisis is when it’s already slowing down and a colleague or another department publishes new content that re-inflames the situation. That’s why it’s so important to stop publishing during a crisis and tell your colleagues that they should do the same.
7. Document the crisis
It’s never bad to keep in mind what started the whole mess. Therefore, document the issues people bring up and rank them in importance early on, so you don’t lose focus. People will try to add layer upon layer of blame onto your company, brand and products. Keeping your focus will be essential, it will help you craft the right messaging to get yourself out of the hole you’re in.
8. Moderate instead of becoming part of the discussion
This may be the hardest part, but there is no need to participate in your own crisis. State facts, official statements, prepare content to share, show empathy in your answers, but don’t discuss the issue itself. If that means posting the same old thing over and over again, do it. It’s easier to bore a mob than to engage with it.
And yes, sometimes you’ll have to delete content. Warn people, tell them to respect the rules, but, again, do not become part of the discussion.
9. Don’t panic
Don’t lose yourself in the crisis. It can be somewhat thrilling to be part of a social media crisis. Some people take it personally even though it’s their company that is under attack. Don’t let that happen to you.
An easy way to guarantee a sort of sanity is rotation. Never let the same people be in the same crisis for too long. Rotate them every few hours. After a few hours you may get the feeling you could solve the whole damn thing with just a single sentence.
Co-written by Nardo Vogt, Pre-sales Manager, Socialbakers