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Social Media Crisis Communication & Response: What You Need to Know

Social Media Crisis Communication & Response: What You Need to Know

On social media, things move fast. As a result, a PR incident may come out of nowhere on

the Internet. Backup plans are critical for making it through a social media crisis. If you are prepared with a solid strategy in place, you can identify and prevent a social media crisis before it occurs. In this post, we’ll review effective methods to identify and respond to a social media crisis.

1. Create a social media policy

Many social media crises occur when an employee posts something inappropriate or off-brand. Luckily, this is one of the easiest types of crises to avoid with a social media policy in place. While the details of a social media policy will vary depending on the size of your business and industry, all policies should include guidelines on: 

  •  Topics that can be discussed on your channel

  • Information that is confidential and should not be shared on social channels

  • Your brand’s tone of voice that should be used consistently

  • What frequency employees should be posting

  • Best practices for engaging with other users and/or businesses online

  • Copyright guidelines with details on how to use third-party content

While many of these details pertain to your business social media accounts, your policy should also include how employees should talk about your small business on their own personal channels.

2. Secure your accounts

Poor security practices like weak passwords can put your business at risk of a cyber attack. To keep your business’s accounts secure, make sure you use strong passwords.

Instead of sharing your login details with all employees, use a centralized posting platform to control user permissions and access. These types of tools also allow you to remove users who no longer need access to your social accounts. By securing your accounts through a centralized posting platform, you can have control of your social media challenges and easily revoke access if needed during a crisis.

3. Use social listening to identify potential issues

Using social listening tools can help you identify a potential social media crisis before it occurs. If you monitor mentions of your company, you can quickly identify a spike in activity. However, by monitoring social sentiment as well, you can understand if this activity is negative or positive.

Social sentiment measures how people feel about your business. If you identify a sudden negative change in sentiment, it may be a red flag that a crisis is about to occur. There are many tools that can help you measure social sentiment, like Brandwatch.

4. Define what counts as a crisis

Make sure to clearly define what counts as a social media crisis. On social media, users will likely say some negative things about you online no matter what. However, if enough people start saying negative things all at the same time, you may have an actual crisis on your hands. To understand what counts as a crisis, you must first understand what a normal day looks like for your business. From there, you can define how much change in sentiment counts as a crisis. If you reach that limit, review the situation with your team and decide if it’s time to implement your crisis communication plan.

5. Craft a crisis communication plan

A social media crisis communication plan outlines how to respond if a crisis occurs. By having these steps outlined, you can quickly take action before things get out of control. This plan should clearly describe each step your team should take during a crisis. Make sure to include a list of which employees need to be involved at different stage of an event. Your social media crisis communication plan should include:

  • Details on how to identify the type and severity of a crisis

  • Responsibilities for each member of your team

  • Guidelines for internal communication  

  • Contact information for employees

  • The approval process employees must follow while posting during a crisis

Shortly after you identify a crisis, make sure to acknowledge that there is a problem and let your followers know that you’ll share more information soon. With just a few informative and genuine posts, you can keep your followers at bay while you work on activating the rest of your crisis communication plan.

6. Pause all scheduled posts

It’s important that all communication during a crisis is thoughtful and appropriate in tone. With that said, you should pause all non-related social media posts until the crisis has been resolved. With a social media planning tool like Hootsuite, you can easily pause your scheduled posts in just the click of a button.

Once you get through a social media crisis, take the time to understand what happened and why it happened. Also review the actions you took to respond and how well each worked. By taking this time to debrief and learn from the experience, you can prevent similar crises from occurring down the line. Make sure to document any lessons learned in your crisis communication plan.


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