Social Media Crisis Management: How To Create an Effective Strategy

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 18, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A positive social media presence requires much time, effort and research. If your social media team wants to maintain your brand's image, it can benefit from social media crisis management. This strategy involves preventing situations before they happen, addressing user concerns and promising to improve future actions. In this article, we discuss the importance of social media crisis management and how you can manage a social media crisis.

Importance of social media crisis management

Here are some reasons social media crisis management is important:

Encourages your team to be proactive

When your team is proactive about its social media crisis management, you can ensure your brand maintains a positive reputation. One way to stay proactive is by creating a social media policy that helps employees publish posts that are sensitive to your audience and suit your brand's values. When creating your social media policy, consider addressing topics such as:

  • Defining your brand tone: By defining what tone you want your team to use, you can keep your brand sympathetic to its customers. For instance, you could adopt a formal tone if your business involves a more serious industry like law.

  • Establishing privacy guidelines: While it's normal for businesses to interact with customers online, it might be appropriate to discuss matters like payments on private channels. Establishing privacy guidelines can help you protect your customers' personal information.

  • Maintaining confidentiality: When employees understand what they can share, they remain transparent with customers while protecting your business's confidentiality.

  • Complying with copyright rules: Provide guidelines for using and crediting third-party content. With these guidelines, your brand can create engaging posts while complying with copyright laws.

  • Unauthorized team accounts: You can avoid brand confusion by preventing your team from creating unauthorized accounts. If an employee wants to make a separate account for a project, ensure they get approval and create clear usage guidelines.

  • Personal social media activity: Consider regulating how your employees talk about your company on their personal social media accounts. Making it clear what they can share can help preserve your brand's confidentiality and image.

Related: What Is Social Media Management?

Identifies risks early

Even when you implement preventive measures like a social media policy, your brand can experience a social media crisis. Knowing which situations require a response can help you effectively use your management strategy, so consider defining what your brand considers a crisis. Many companies focus on situations where there is a significant change in the online conversation about their brands or when users want a response.

Once you know what your brand considers a crisis, consider looking for early signs on social media. Your team can check your accounts daily to review your audience's activity and comments on your posts. If someone notices a potential situation, they can determine whether a response is appropriate to prevent it from developing into a bigger issue. Aside from manual reviews, you could also use a social listening program to monitor online activity relating to your brand. Programs send alerts about content that may require a response and scams that target your company or customers.

Related: Pros and Cons of Social Media Marketing

How to manage a social media crisis

Here are some steps to consider when managing a social media crisis:

1. Secure accounts

Instead of providing employees with usernames and passwords, many companies use platforms that centralize access to their social media accounts. This measure can prevent employees from making inappropriate posts. If a situation occurs, this centralized access can allow you to control posting permissions to prevent the situation from further developing.

If a situation occurs and you don't use a platform that centralizes access, consider securing your accounts. Changing usernames and passwords can help you ensure that only authorized posts come from your accounts. It can also help if the situation resulted from a cyber-attack, as it may be less likely for a hacker to make another post that affects your brand's reputation.

2. Pause scheduled posts

While scheduled posts are an effective marketing tool that can streamline your workflow and help you maintain an active social media presence, consider pausing them during a situation. Pausing scheduled posts can prevent you from publishing insensitive content and give you time to develop an appropriate response. Consider disabling all currently scheduled posts, and caution your team against creating any new schedule posts.

3. Communicate internally

Your management strategy is rarely a job for one department. As you continue to develop your approach, ensure all departments communicate with each other. You can assign tasks such as research, post creation and engagement to address all matters effectively. Consider having meetings to update everyone on the progress of your campaign and to make appropriate adjustments. For instance, if you discover your audience responds well to individual replies from your company, you can increase your engagement efforts.

4. Address the situation as soon as possible

Social media conversations can spread quickly, meaning it's important to address situations as soon as possible. Consider developing a post that acknowledges the problem, addresses user concerns and promises to amend the situation. This initial response shows that you are aware of the situation and are trying to correct it quickly.

After the initial post, you can release a more official, in-depth message. Consider evaluating the reactions to the initial post and use the feedback to create an even more effective response. Depending on the situation, some companies publish an official statement, press release or video from the CEO.

5. Engage with users

Besides creating general statements about the situation, you can engage with individual users. Responding to feedback may help you effectively address concerns and show users you value their input. Try to keep your replies brief while still empathizing. Consider responding publicly to show that you respond to user concerns and allow others to benefit from the information you provide. When necessary, invite the user to continue the conversation via direct message or off of social media.

Related: What Are User Engagement Metrics? Definition and Types

7. Learn from the experience

After a situation subsides, consider what you could learn from the experience. Your team can analyze how the situation occurred and implement more preventative measures to reduce the risk of it happening again. For instance, if audiences saw one of your scheduled posts as insensitive because you published it during a natural disaster, you can revise your strategy to monitor world events more closely. By understanding your audience's most relevant concerns, you can revise scheduled posts to make them more sensitive.

Teams may also learn from their experience by evaluating which strategies were effective. If your audience responded well to an approach like individualized replies, you might use this tactic if another situation occurs.

Related: How To Learn From Your Mistakes

Examples of social media crisis management

Here are some examples of social media crisis management:

Example 1

A video goes viral of an employee treating customers poorly. Users criticize the company on social media and demand the employee's firing. The social media team responds with a post that briefly explains the problem, apologizes and promises to amend the situation. The team communicates with other departments, including the one responsible for investigating what happened. Subsequent posts update users by explaining the company has fired the employee and plans to provide more training to prevent future situations. These efforts cause customers to see that the company cares about their concerns, allowing the brand to retain their trust.

Example 2

A company notices customer concerns about its industry. Posts target that company's competitors for their unethical business practices, and because the company is in the same industry, people question its practices. The company's social listening platform alerts the team to a sudden increase in mentions of the brand online. Instead of letting people assume they use the same unethical business practices as its competitors, the company publishes a post to address the situation. The post recognizes user concerns and remains transparent about how the company operates. Users appreciate their honesty and continue to support the brand.

Example 3

Thousands of customers buy defective products from a company and complain via social media. The company recognizes how big the problem is and creates a separate thread to address user concerns. General replies from the company provide users with apologies, information on getting refunds and guarantees to improve future products. The company also responds to individual comments to provide personalized apologies and advice specific to their situation. In many replies, the company directs users to call a representative for individualized support.

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