Social Media Crisis Management

We have seen them on blogs and in the news – some form of a social media crisis, tarnishing (or worse) a company’s reputation. The thought of that happening to your organization can actually be paralyzing. I talk to many businesses that are afraid of social media because they’re worried that someone may say something bad about their company or that anything bad will happen.

It is true. Something bad could happen. The thing is… with social media now we actually have the opportunity to hear what people are saying about us and our businesses. Those things were still being said before, but we rarely got to hear them.

I highly recommend putting together a social media crisis plan if you are going to actively participate in this space, even if you are only going to participate in it a little. Having a plan, discussing your fear and apprehension will make you more agile if you do have a social media incident on your hands.

Here are some major elements to dealing with a crisis on social media:

  1. Create a plan – The process of creating a social media crisis plan can be very empowering. Getting your concerns out on the table and getting key stakeholder’s opinions of what should happen, when and by who is a great conversation to have. Who manages your social media? Is it your marketing team? Well get other departments and people involved in your plan – legal, IT, sales, etc. Each will lend their perspective and knowledge to the conversation.
  2. Define a crisis– What to you is a social media crisis? When should the C-Suite or president get involved and when is it just a blemish your team can handle? Talk about scenarios before hand. If you see relevant stories in the news, bring them up and share them with your organization. Sometimes talking about what not to do is just as good as talking about what to do.

    Below is an example org chart from radian6 from their All-Star Social Media Crisis Response for Brands eBook on steps to carry out in the face of a social media crisis.

  3. Protect yourself with education – Most of the social media missteps and problems I have seen could have been prevented with a company-wide social media education program. Educating your staff about what social media is, how and why your company is using it and what is and what is not allowed can be priceless. Create social media guidelines for your company so everyone knows where they stand and what is not OK behavior to do online as a representative of your company.
  4. Catch it fast – If things do go wrong, you want to be right on top of it. Have processes in place so you know what is happening on your social media profiles in a timely manner. Almost all social networks have options for alerting you when someone mentions you or interacts with your profile. Many even have options to email you, if email is something you have your eye on all day maybe that is a good way to get alerts on what is happening online.
  5. Keep records – If you get in the situation where you need to take some type of action, keep a record of what happens and how you respond. Take screenshots of public postings and record emails. If it does get somewhere where your legal department or team needs to get involved, you will want documentation of where you are and how you got there.

In most cases, you won’t need a crisis management plan but having one protects you in more than one way. Getting your stakeholders and staff on the same page, having a plan in place and being organized will make you prepared for many situations you could find yourself in and prevent these things from happening in the first place.