How To Manage Online Social Media Crisis
More and more companies have been jumping head first into the Social Media pond without a clearly defined social media strategy. Unfortunately, this opens the door for a potential social media crisis. Because social media is a dynamic cross breed of both Marketing and Public Relations, it’s important to set ground rules for engagement, as well as measurable goals, so that you never find yourself unprepared if/when critics come out of the woodwork. Social media platforms are fueled by two-way conversations, which means at times critics could disrupt your page flow with allegations and judgment. Do you have a plan in place that allows you to communicate with these critics professionally and promptly? It is critical for companies to take haste when negative comments are posted on your platforms. The longer you leave criticism there with no company response, the more likely it is that the issue will turn from comment to full-blown crisis. With a comprehensive plan in place, you are empowering your platform monitor to respond quickly and without fear.
It is in your best interest to set a series of ground rules for communication, and make these ground rules clear to not only your staff, but your audience as well. If you have a blog, a simple welcome statement will suffice, outlining that any derogatory comments containing vulgar language or images, personal attacks or comments that are clearly off topic will be removed. This doesn’t give you free reign to remove any comments that criticize the company, as this will be regarded as censorship. People won’t engage with a company that censors its users, so it’s important to welcome criticism as long as it is presented in a professional manner.
Monitoring your platform is crucial, and the frequency is dependent on the size of your community. Many brand platforms require daily monitoring. If you are going to be running multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog) consider hiring and training a full time Community Manager, or outsourcing to an agency that employs a full time Community Manager and/or Social Media Strategist. Frequent monitoring will ensure that if crisis were to ensue, prompt action will be taken. At Pulp & Fiber we not only have myself as the Community Manager, but a Digital Marketing Strategist and a Copywriter/Social Media Coordinator looking after the best interests of our clients and their digital/social brand identities.
Finally, make sure that all responses coming from your company, your Community Manager, or anyone representing your company are professional and courteous. Don’t overreact, accuse or make light of your users comment or allegation. Don’t create fake comments or reviews from ghost accounts. If someone finds out, you will have an entirely new crisis on your hands. Should the comment spin into a crisis, put a face to the response. Have the VP or CEO respond to the comment. If the allegations have truth to them, then take ownership and let the user know what you are doing to fix the problem. If the allegations are false however, then don’t be afraid to set the record straight. Just be sure you do so in a manner that isn’t regarded as an attack.