Whether you're a multimillion dollar enterprise with a team of social media experts or a startup of 5 trying to grow your brand, you are not immune to the pitfalls of a social media crisis. Crises can range from customer complaints to marketing mishaps, both big and small and everything in between. The way you handle a crisis can ultimately strengthen or weaken your brand image.
Here's a list of 10 must-have tips to manage a social media crisis that I walked away with from Marketing and Social Media professor Kimberly Legoki, who spoke at the Disrupting Business: Social Marketing Symposium at IBM's IIC in Foster City, CA. You're going to want to bookmark this list in case of emergency!
1. Always be listening and monitoring
When crisis strikes, make sure you've got eyes on everything that's being said so that you can quickly respond and fully understand the scope of the crisis. Aggregation tools like Storify can help you keep an ear to the pulse of the story so that you can assess what people are saying.
2. Turn off auto-post immediately
Auto-posting is great for many things, but if you have to address an unfortunate circumstance you don't want it to accidentally be followed by a post that can look insensitive or contradictory.
3. Immediately acknowledge the situation
Even if you're not ready to release details, if there is a situation that people are talking about, you need to acknowledge that it happened and that you will keep the public in the know as you gather more information. These actions are necessary for taking charge of what people are saying about your brand.
4. Get your message to as many outlets as possible
While it's best to centralize all of the information, perhaps in a blog, use all other social media channels to direct people to that location.
5. Correct – don't delete!
Once it's out there, deleting it won't make it go away and it might make it worse. Deleting looks suspect and creates more negative sentiment. If there's a mistake, acknowledge it and update the information.
6. If you must temporarily disengage, do it the right way
If you must disengage (as @NASAVoyager2 did during the federal government shutdown – insert image) don't suspend or delete the account. Acknowledge that due to circumstances your organization won't be able to respond to or monitor comments via social media and supply an alternative way of reaching out. Let people know when you return.
7. Own the #hashtag
In your first post about the situation, use the hashtag and continue to use it to encourage others to use it, too. That first post will be the one that gets re-posted again and again.
8. Monitor online chatter before resuming marketing activities
Before you get back to business as usual, make sure you're listening to what people are saying about the crisis. You don't want to go back to your regularly scheduled marketing until your customers are ready for that.
9. Adopt a response matrix
This response matrix from the U.S. Airforce can be adopted to your particular crisis.
10. Practice, refine, repeat
It's important to plan ahead for a crisis. Who's going to post to where? Does everyone who would need access to a platform actually have access? Who approves the posts? Have a template ready to go in case of emergency. Practice a mock crisis every 6 months with this team to ensure that everything is in order.
You are now equipped to handle any disaster that comes you're way. While I hope you never have to use this list, you'll be glad to have it if disaster strikes.
Professor Legoki is a crisis management savant who has managed and studied crises for over 20 years. Her latest project is called “The customer who tweeted #boycott; an empirical investigation of consumer activism on Twitter.” Tweet @KimLegoki and what you want to #boycott, to be included in her research.
Do you have any other tips to add? Any good examples of companies that didn't follow these tips? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Follow me on Twitter @TheZanieLanie