How to Prepare For & Deal With a Crisis on Social Media

Social media is unpredictable, so it is important to be prepared for anything. No organization is immune to a social media crisis; however, your organization CAN be prepared to deal with one.

Here are a few tips to avoid a crisis on social media:

  1. Monitor social media feeds frequently
    • Frequently will mean something different for every industry and business; however, a general rule is daily. Setup alerts on social network to send alerts.
  2. Create a social media crisis plan and team
    • A best practice is to integrate it with the PR crisis communication plan. Assign team members to be responsible for pieces of the plan.
  3. Establish a chain of command for a crisis
    • Identify the appropriate approval process before a crisis happens. Document the people, process and all contact information in the plan.
  4. Post a public social media comments policy on social networks (and privacy policy if in a regulated industry such as financial or healthcare).
    • The policy can be posted in the About Us section on Facebook or include a link to a policy page on the company website. The policy should protect the company if posts need to be removed from the social network. Examples of policies can be found on http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies/.
  5. Create and adhere to employee social media policies
    • Monitoring also has to happen within the four walls of the company. Create and publish a social media policy for employees. Ensure the plan is fully communicated to existing employees and new employees as they join the company.

However, it is impossible to lay out every single possibility of a crisis on social media.  What if someone is posting hundreds of bad reviews, threatening someone within the organization, or posting inappropriate photos in your Facebook page? When people get upset, they usually want one of 3 things: a solution, revenge, or to be heard.

Stay Calm!

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 In general, here is how to deal with an upset user on social media:

  1. Issue arises and is identified with the monitoring process.
  2. Research the poster. Understand who they are, what do their social network profiles look like, have they complained to other brands, how much of a following/presence do they have online.
  3. Engage immediately and apologize for their experience. Do not accept blame until the situation is thoroughly understood. Even if it is not your fault, give a blameless apology such as, “Bob, we are sorry to hear about your bad experience. If you could direct message us with your account details, we can look into the problem further and figure out what went wrong.” When an apology is not appropriate, make sure you let the person know you value what they say. For example, “Tim, we try and keep our pricing as reasonable as competitive as possible. We value your feedback. Thank you.” REMEMBER: No matter how rude or in polite a person is, they should still receive prompt and respectful customer service.
  4. Always try to take the conversation offline.
  5. Continue to monitor the situation to ensure more comments aren’t posted that need addressed.
  6. Move on.

As much as you will want to, you should never delete negative posts. In general, there are only 3 times when it is okay to delete a post or comment:

  1. Personal attack.
  2. Spam.
  3. Irrelevant or offensive material.

Best practices for deleting a post or comment:

  1. Respond to user (if appropriate) and let them know that their post or comment will be deleted and why.
  2. ALWAYS point them back to your social network policy.
  3. Delete the post or comment within the next 1-4 hours.

What if the person is making a harmful threat?

Unfortunately, this happens. I have seen people threaten to harm people inside an organization via social media. This should be treated very seriously. First of all, do not delete anything until the problem is resolved. As much as you do not want the threat associated with your brand, threatening comments can be evidence or provide insight into what the person might have planned!

  1. If the person is threatening to harm themselves or anyone else, this should be reported right away to your local police department.
  2. As mentioned, do not delete anything. Capture screen shots as proof of the threat. At this point, make a judgement call if the conversation can be taken offline or to stay silent (for now).
  3. This is where your company’s social media policy comes into play. Strongly consider adding language in your crisis policy that threats will not be tolerated on your social media pages. If the person does not respond to your attempt to take the conversation offline and you have already reported this issue to the police, you can follow your social media policy and you may decide to hide the comment and report this person to the social network company (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Things to remember:

  1. Respond quickly
    • It’s important when using social media to monitor the channels at all times and respond right away. People expect quick responses on social networks.
  2. You cannot control the message
    • In social media, keep in mind that you cannot control the message or comments that are made. Prepare yourself for all types of feedback.
  3. Not all bad feedback has to end badly
    • You have the opportunity to turn upset fans into loyal customers by making their experience better. Whether or not the fault lies on your end, a simple apology will go a long way in keeping the customer’s business.
  4. Assume positive intent
    • Accept constructive criticism; your followers can be helpful!
  5. “I don’t know” is an OKAY answer
    • It’s better to respond and say “you will look into it” than to not respond at all, or respond with an incorrect answer.
  6. Update your social media policy regularly
    • People who are upset or critical have a right to voice their opinion; however, they do not have the right to commandeer your social media page. This is why having a policy is so important.

Social media encourages conversations – all kinds of conversations. People like to provide feedback and insights, of which, most of it can be helpful. Having a social media policy will protect your company and prepare everyone to manage a crisis more easily.

Jordan Flinn

About Jordan Flinn

Jordan Flinn is a Sr. Manager of Social Media Marketing for Fathom specializing in all things social media and online PR for healthcare accounts. She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, but was born and raised in Columbus and happy to be back. During the day, you can find Jordan working on creative social media strategies, content optimization/writing, or doing online research. She enjoys problem-solving and staying up to date on the best practices in PR and social media. Outside of the office, she enjoys spending time with her dog, Louie!

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