How to: Manage Your Social Media in a Crisis

For a lot of brands, whatever your size, a crisis can be a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. In a digital world where news breaks on social media first how can you successfully steer your brand through a crisis?

1. Recognise you’re not in control

The more you try to enforce control over the situation the worse it’s likely to get. Thanks to social media every interaction, in whatever form of media, inevitable becomes a dialogue, not a monologue.

2. Everyone is an influencer (potentially)

Treat them as you would a journalist, a celebrity or any other high profile individual. Messages, true or false, all get amplified on social media so address the ones that aren’t true at every chance you get. Turn angry influencers in brand advocates by being open and honest in communications – updating and responding to them as often as you can.

3. Turn scheduled posts and adverts OFF

Seems obvious but you would be surprised how often it happens when a crisis hits. People that have died have ‘tweeted’ days later about the latest must-have gadget. A scheduled Tesco tweet talked about ‘hitting the hay’ after a long day…in the midst of the horse meat scandal. If in doubt, turn them off.

4. Reconsider who has access to accounts

Too often businesses have account executives running their social media. Not always a problem, there’s some very talented young people out there, but be wary of who is managing your accounts during a crisis. One poorly placed tweet could be all it takes to escalate things for your brand.

5. Get friendly with data

Hopefully you’ve been religiously monitoring your channels to find out as much as you can about your fan base. If not, now’s the time to get into it. Monitor through the crisis, checking sentiment and key message penetration as time goes on and use this for future online comms.

6. Don’t be afraid to walk away

Whilst you should respond to everyone as a matter of course, don’t be afraid to walk away from an unproductive conversation. Also, know when to scale back your crisis comms engagement. If data is showing the crisis isn’t escalating avoid inflaming things on social media.

7. Learn from it!

All that monitoring you did? See if there are any glaring holes in your communications during the crisis. You may also need to change policies and procedures internally to make things easier for next time.