SOS! My business is having a social media crisis!
Thanks to social media, information that used to take several hours or even days to reach the public can now be spread almost instantaneously. When a crisis sets alarms bells ringing in today’s world, it’s impossible to ignore!
A well-prepared crisis unit and an action plan to mitigate the impact and quickly get back to normal are just two ways to manage a social media crisis and limit collateral damage.
Anticipate and plan for a crisis
While it’s nearly impossible to predict what will lead to a crisis, organizations are nonetheless well-advised to take advantage of calmer periods to contemplate the possibility. They should envision some plausible scenarios, establish a management protocol, appoint the individuals who will be in charge, determine the role of each team member, and supply everyone with the tools they need to take action and communicate effectively, should the need arise (see also: Quand la crise éclate!).
Online monitoring of chatter about your company or organization is a way to complement your crisis preparations. In fact, this sort of monitoring can identify vulnerabilities and anomalies and enable you to take action before they degenerate. There are many monitoring tools available to facilitate this process (see also: Des stratégies pour gérer votre réputation en ligne).
In the end, although your company image and reputation are at stake, don’t forget that similar risks existed, even before the advent of social media. The difference is that, today, social networks have the potential to aggravate and accelerate a crisis situation.
Intervene, manage and overcome a crisis
When an incident is detected and a crisis seems inevitable, one must take effective action. At this stage, managing communications and reassuring clients, partners and the public requires a lot of discipline and diplomacy. Even if you have no answers for the questions being asked, it is important to publicly acknowledge the problem and show that you are doing everything in your power to resolve it.
Maintaining control over communications, promoting transparency and honesty with regard to the current problem and reacting quickly to criticisms can help you limit the damage. If the crisis actually began on a specific social network, Facebook, for example, you should begin by responding directly on the site. With a little bit of luck, the crisis could subside without reaching other media. If, on the other hand, this is not the case, you must act in a uniform manner across all networks involved.
Creating a Web page with crisis-related questions and answers (FAQ) could save you a lot of time and prevent misunderstandings. In addition to listing all possible questions, this page means you can provide a link to the answers when asked about the same topics; remember, Twitter only gives you 140 characters, which is not much for clearly expressing your views. This page could include the following types of information:
- Recognition of the crisis
- The surrounding circumstances
- Photos or videos showing, for example, the president of the company holding a briefing
- The next actions planned to resolve the crisis
- Contact information for people who can provide more details
During a crisis, the point is not to win arguments but to control damage. For this reason, although transparency is essential, it’s also important to know when certain conversations that could degenerate should be taken offline. Inviting a compromising person to continue the discussion by phone or email shows that you are interested in the position being argued yet prevents the spillover from being aired publicly.
End a crisis
Some crises can be avoided, while others would appear inevitable. What lessons have you learned and what measures can you take to prevent a similar situation from happening again? It is crucial to deconstruct such events after they are over so you can use the experience to prepare your next crisis management plan. You could, for example:
- document and preserve all the comments posted on the various social networks and any emails exchanged with the internal team, the public and the media
- analyze the number of site visits and your social network profile during the crisis
- determine the chronological sequence of events, identify the critical moments and understand the reasons behind them
- evaluate the crisis management plan you used and improve it
To avoid having to face a social media crisis, some businesses are simply opting out of social networks. But is this really a good solution? What if a crisis involving you unfolds on social media and you are not there to deal with it? Although maintaining a presence on social networks definitely involves some risk, paradoxically, not doing so does not make you immune to risk!
– Baer, Jay. “Don’t Be Scared Be Prepared – How to Manage a Social Media Crisis“, convinceandconvert.com, 2012.
– Blancot, Carole et al. “Communication de crise à l’heure des médias sociaux,” Atramenta, September 2012, 100 p.
– Fryatt, Jenise. “Social Strategies: Creating Your Social Media Crisis Management Plan“, blog.cvent.com, January 16, 2013.
– Seraiocco, Nadia. “Gestion de crise sur les réseaux: pensez-vous à votre CM?” cheznadia.com, February 27, 2013.
– World Tourism Organization. “Toolbox for Crisis Communications in Tourism“, 2011.
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