Nine Tips To Develop A Social Media Crisis Strategy
By Cynthia Cradduck
It’s clear that business owners no longer can ignore the impact and significance of integrating social media into their overall marketing plan. A great deal of thought is devoted to choosing which channels to use, creating a cohesive voice and crafting creative content.
Equal attention should be given to planning for social media crises that can happen quickly and escalate even more quickly.
Don’t worry, though. The following nine-step guide will help you prepare for and survive a social media crisis of any kind.
Before a Crisis
1. Establish a social media crisis team.
Not everyone in your business needs to be part of this group, but everyone who’s included should have a defined role. Who will be responsible for monitoring online for potential crises? Who will be the spokesperson if things do go awry? Who will be responsible for responding to online comments? All of these roles must be filled with individuals who know what defines a crisis and how to handle it.
2. Define what constitutes a social media crisis for your business.
Larger corporations may ignore a few hundred complaints, but those complaints could be devastating for small businesses. When social media chatter begins to have a negative effect on your services or products, something must be done.
3. Identify your key message and create communication guidelines.
Because crises are unpredictable, your brand’s central message will need to be defined when you understand the root issue of what’s happening. To be prepared, your entire team should understand the company’s values and missions. These should guide whatever response the crisis calls for. It is important to establish guidelines for relaying all necessary information to your employees, stakeholders and the public.
Knowing who needs to know what, using which platforms, will allow you to respond quickly when fire strikes.
4. Monitor. Monitor. Monitor.
You’ll never catch a crisis soon enough if you’re not constantly monitoring online for negative messages circulating about your company. Decide which tools you will use to do this and who’s responsible. “Social Mention” is a great resource to keep an eye on your company and/or your clients in the social media sphere.
During a Crisis
5. Take control.
Pause your scheduled posts. After you ensure no outgoing posts will be published for the moment to any of your pages, you should follow by informing your team of the situation and acknowledging the problem publicly. Remember to address the issue on your website as well.
6. Determine the Key Message.
Assessing the situation and developing a key message that is understood by everyone on your team is critical. This should be a strategic message that will guide the rest of the crisis. Using appropriate words to describe the situation effectively is a must, and everyone should agree to relay this message to anyone who might ask. “No answer” is not sufficient.
7. Respond to the Public.
Don’t ignore the situation or members of the public who are upset. Ask them to contact you privately by offering an email address or a number they can call. This tells everyone who is looking at these messages that your brand truly cares. Continue to monitor the messaging and continue to work your plan. This is when it’s important to remember you can weather the storm.
After a Crisis
8. Assess the impact.
Evaluate your company’s status. Your social monitoring tool will indicate the overall sentiment about your company and its standing on social media. Did the crisis result in tangible setbacks? Take time to study the damage that has been done.
9. Reflect and prepare.
Take a minute to reflect and decide what went well and what parts of your crisis plan need improvement. And remember that online content lives forever and may resurface later.
It’s worth remembering, too, that no one is exempt. Even if your social channels have a small following and a social media crisis seems unlikely, a plan to guide you through potential chaos should be in place at all times.
I think we all can agree that people sometimes get a little crazy online.
Good luck out there.
Cynthia Cradduck is the Junior Partner at Carriage Trade Public Relations and Cecilia Russo Marketing, where she oversees business development, manages the Visibility Team, and coordinates reputation management strategies for clients, media relations and online SEO-PR.