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!

treb072410 May 11, 2014
Great post James! It is really informative and very useful... Thanks for sharing!
James Reichert May 12, 2014
Glad you enjoyed the read!
treb072410 May 23, 2014
Sure did James..
Hisocial May 9, 2014
Great tips James, thanks for sharing. Having a plan of action is the most important task in social media crisis, so that everyone knows what to do and how to respond in a specific situation. Not providing any response in a situation of crisis is the worst scenario, and one should avoid it.
James Reichert May 12, 2014
Well said - thanks for reading!
Robert Bridge May 7, 2014
Nice quick read, well done. The template works nicely with this article too. Orange James. Thanks for sharing the old Facebook tips, success!
James Reichert May 8, 2014
Glad you enjoyed it, Robert! These tips can also be useful for Twitter.
Mikey Dunn May 7, 2014
Great article, James! Obviously we both had some first-hand experience with a recent crisis, and this article clearly exemplifies how well you handled it. It will surely be useful to other community managers and brands out there.
James Reichert May 7, 2014
Couldn't agree more, Mikey. Thanks for the feedback!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>