8 Key Elements for Managing a Social Media Crisis

By James Reichert 

A “crisis” is defined as a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. It’s these moments of intense difficulty that can make or break a brand’s reputation on social media. These crises occur far too often in the realm of social media today, which makes it imperative for proper planning before a crisis even occurs. Below are some of the key elements that a brand needs to keep in mind when managing a crisis, no matter how serious it may be.

1. Create a plan of action. This element is one that should be in place long before a serious situation occurs. Social media is an extremely fast-paced environment that can catch brands off guard. Have a plan of action in place to handle serious situations.

2. Think before you act. A lot of times the crisis would've been avoidable if the brand had just taken a step back to analyze what they were doing. Planning on creating timely content? Planning a campaign that asks for user-generated responses? Have a member of your team play devil’s advocate by including them in discussions so that they can point out what could go wrong.

3. Listen then respond. If you find yourself in the middle of a crisis, it is imperative to listen to your fans and customers and respond to each one personally. Cookie-cutter responses will only make matters worse, listen to what they are each saying and respond like a human.

4. Be as timely as possible. Catch a crisis as it develops in order to stop it from boiling over. Timely responses and updates on the situation are essential for keeping everyone in the loop. You never want to have a fan think you are hiding information from them – sharing frequent updates is a great way to let everyone know you are dealing with the situation and a resolution is on the horizon.

5. Divide and conquer. Since social media never sleeps and a social team consists of many moving pieces, it's important to have scheduled check-ins so that your team members do not overlap one another. Don't have too many cooks in the kitchen; it's a recipe for disaster.

6. Distinguish where to handle responses. You need to distinguish when you need to take a conversation offline and into private or direct messages. Take a conversation offline anytime a response from a fan or customer deals with personal information or is in need of a more personal touch. Another rule of thumb is if you are responding to the same person more than three times in a row, the conversation now can appear to be an argument – something that you do not want to happen. If a fourth reply is necessary, ask them to send you a private or direct message so that you can have a member of your team provide direct support.

7. Know when to bring in top-level support. Sometimes you need to bring in more top-level members of your brand and company to make a public statement to be shared across all social media channels. This tactic is used to show customer and fan's that you are taking this situation seriously and the whole team is working together towards a resolution.

8. Be likeable. Putting yourself in the customer and fan’s shoes might help you see the crisis from the other-side. Saying you’re sorry can go a long way in difficult situations – mind your manners!

The one key ingredient in all of these elements is communication. A social media crisis can damage your reputation and far worse without proper communication internally with your team and externally to your customers and fans.

Do you have any advice on how to handle a crisis? What have you learned from brands that have faced one before? Share your thoughts in the comments below!