A social media crisis can make or break a company. No matter the size, net worth, or how long they’ve been around, the internet has a way of magnifying even a small infraction. It’s best for any company to have a social media crisis plan, just in case.
How a company handles a social media crisis can also make or break a company. If a business has a strategic plan in place, they can come out on the other end of it, in a best-case scenario, unscathed. While companies that have little to no plan will suffer.
In this post, we’ll give you 6 steps to prepare for a social media crisis, should there ever be one. For more articles like this, give our Facebook page a follow or sign up for the newsletter if you would like information like this post sent directly to you!
1. Build Your Team
With any process, deciding on who should deal with the said process is an obvious step. Having this an already decided factor is important in a crisis, as there is no time to decide who will decide what. Here are some things to keep in mind when determining your social media crisis team:
Does everyone work well together, particularly under pressure?
Is there trust within the team or is there a way to create trust within the team?
Will team members be able to make hard decisions in a quick turnaround?
2. Delegate & Communicate
The next step in the process is to delegate roles to each team member. Determine who will be the team leader, preferably someone who does extremely well under pressure. During this step, keep in mind that things can move at lightning speed in situations like these, so make sure tasks are divided equally and fairly.
Also, during this step, you can determine how you want your team to communicate during a crisis. Will it be through Slack or Teams? Make sure to create the group in advance and communicate regularly so that it is ready and available when needed.
3. Social Media Policy
With several social media crises happening because of a poor company-wide social media policy, we think it is best to create a sound policy in advance to avoid those crises altogether. This is something that the crisis team could work together on to gauge how well they all work together.
In this policy, be sure to detail guidelines that the team agrees are appropriate for employees as well as expectations for company social media accounts being run by employees. This way everyone can start out on the right foot and understand what the company expects of them as an employee and what they can and cannot post about their place of work.
4. Create a Plan
After roles have been delegated and a social media policy has been agreed upon, it’s time to set up the action plan in case of a crisis. Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating a plan:
Time frame, when should you respond to the crisis?
What steps will you take leading up to a company-wide statement?
How will you determine how severe a situation is before it’s deemed a “crisis”?
In what form will you respond? (Company Memo, Facebook post, Email)
Will you stop other social media posts from being posted?
The only thing businesses need to keep in mind with a social media crisis is that they are all unique and can all be handled differently. Your plan should be flexible enough to bend in any which direction you need it to without breaking. Give your team enough direction to go forward without putting up barriers to success in each unique situation.
5. Practice Social Listening
Social listening is monitoring social media content and analyzing how it could affect your company. Social listening is a huge part of crisis management because if you can spot an issue before it blows up into a full-blown crisis, money and stress can be saved.
You can do this in a couple of different ways:
Keeping up on brand mentions
Tracking social sentiment (how customers feel about your brand)
Keep an eye on competitors.
The last step is engaging with your audience. Be active in the comments on different platforms. Have your crisis team monitor comments that voice concerns with the brand. Engaging with the customers shows you care. If you have been practicing your social listening from step 5, you are able to determine when a situation needs to be handled with a comment or direct message. Stop the problem before it becomes a problem. Defense, defense, defense.
The key to this step is to never argue with a customer. Think of the old saying, “The customer is always right”. Though it may be frustrating and clear to your team that the customer is in fact not right, it’s in the best interest to take the high road. Acknowledging the fact that they have frustrations is important, as is the saying, “We are so sorry for your inconvenience in the matter”. You can even give a simple, “check your inbox for a message from us” to take the situation out of the public view and to somewhere more private. Letting the public know you are aware of the situation and handling it can also show how much you care about your customers.
So, what have we learned? We’ve learned that social media crises can happen to anyone at any time for any reason. It does not matter about the size, net worth, or longevity of the company. If you do not have a set plan in place, things can go wrong, quickly.
Completing a company-wide social media policy will aid in diminishing the probability of a crisis. Make sure the policy is clear on guidelines for employees as well as what the company expects of its social media accounts.
It’s important to not only have a team dedicated to a social media crisis for when it arises but a team that is constantly monitoring for a crisis. If they have an action plan should the need arise to sound the alarm, things should progress smoothly.
Defense is the best offense. Detect the problem before it becomes a problem by practicing social listening and monitoring the brand’s social sentiment. Engage when the need arises and don’t forget that the customer is always right!
If you need the help of a dedicated social media team to help you navigate a situation like this or any other, contact us. At Elemental Plans, this is what we do!
Digital Marketing Institute, “10 Steps to Prepare for a Social Media Crisis”, Julie Atherton, May 26, 2021, https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/10-steps-to-prepare-for-a-social-media-crisis, Accessed May 21, 2023
Hootsuite, “How to Manage a Social Media Crisis and Save Your Job: 9 Tips”, Stacey McLachlan, Sarah Dawley, June 2, 2022, https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-crisis-management/, Accessed May 21, 2023