How to handle a social media crisis

As a tool for raising awareness about your brand, social media scores top marks. When people like or share what is being posted about your business, social media earns its stripes as one of the most influential online branding strategies around.

But what happens when something detrimental to your clean-cut reputation is posted online? Negative comments tend to grab attention quicker than positive ones, and have the ability to spread like wildfire across the internet. When such a social media crisis strikes, knowing how to handle the situation effectively is crucial, so you can nip it in the bud and limit any damage caused to your reputation.

Be prepared

You can prevent a social media crisis from turning viral like an infectious disease by being prepared before an attack even happens. Having a reputation management crisis plan already in place means you’ll know how to respond when negative comments are published. Your plan should include who is responsible for dealing with the crisis, what steps you should take and what guidelines to follow. Frontline staff who use social media should also be educated on this issue.

Keep your eyes open

In order to know if anything unsavoury is being said about you on social media, keep a watchful eye on various sites on a regular basis to monitor any potential threats to your good name. Timing is of the essence when a social media crisis erupts, so being at the ready from the first negative outpouring is crucial. There are various tools you can use to monitor when your brand is being mentioned online, so it’s worth investigating these as part of your crisis prevention strategies.

Respond quickly

As soon as you spot a negative slur about your brand on social media, never ignore it in the hope it will disappear. Respond immediately. Even if you don’t have an instant solution to the problem, at least acknowledge the comment and reply by saying you will look into the issue.

Avoid a slanging match

Even if the negative comments you receive about your business are unjustified or the person who made them is in the wrong, avoid going on the defensive and never get into a slanging match. Social media is like a global stage, so it is imperative to retain your dignity and professionalism at all times. It may seem strange to write an apology if you know you haven’t done anything wrong, but it will show that, either way, you care about what your customers or followers think. Obviously, if the negative comments are valid, it’s also important to accept your mistakes and take full responsibility. Never lie, as you will risk being regarded as an untrustworthy brand.

Keep communicating

You can help to redeem your good reputation by showing that you take negative comments seriously, and are committed to finding a quick but suitable resolution. If you need time to investigate any negative allegations, it’s important that you remain transparent and keep your social media followers informed of the proceedings, so that they feel they are being kept in the loop. 

Even if you have no updates to give them, let them know that you’re still doing your best to resolve the situation. Open up a dialogue with your social media followers, if necessary, so that they can ask questions and feel that they are not being ignored during this crisis.

Be careful about what other things you post on social media during this time, however. Your followers may get annoyed if you publish anything that may be deemed insensitive or controversial to the specific crisis. Equally, if you need time to investigate the complaint posted on social media, but continue to churn out lots of content, it may look like your priorities are in the wrong place.

Learn from the experience

Hopefully, you’ll quickly find a satisfactory resolution to the social media crisis. How you communicate this is just as important to the actual solution you provide. Although a social media crisis can be detrimental to your brand reputation, if you handle the situation effectively and show your professional, caring side, you can limit the damage caused, and may even be able to turn a negative situation into one that can enhance your brand image.

The vital factor following a social media crisis is to learn from the experience, so you can understand what the challenges were that you faced, and how you would handle them better or differently, if you find yourself in that situation again.

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