When Social Media Goes Wrong: Tips to Handle Any Crisis

Blog Post by Sarah Malcolm, Chief Digital Strategist at The News Funnel

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Some “oopsie” moments aren’t so private, especially when they happen on social media. Remember when KitchenAid tweeted about President Obama grandmother’s death before the election, or when Applebee’s fired an employee for posting a comment left on a receipt? Whereas KitchenAid responded quickly with apology tweet from its CEO, Applebee’s escalated the social media situation by standing up to their decision as a violation of privacy rights despite having posted another receipt of a more positive nature. Within hours, Applebee’s had thousands of negative comments on their Facebook status. The lesson? Social media is watching, and you need to be ready to handle it.

1) Social Media Training

Start with ensuring your social media team is properly trained. Anyone with access to your social media accounts needs to be supplied with branding and posting guidelines. Do not assume they know how to make posts in good faith. Give them scenarios and have them practice responding appropriately to unhappy customers. Part of the social media training should include information on your crisis plan, as explained next.

2) Emergency Plan

Part of your social media strategy must include an emergency plan. Spend some time brainstorming potential social media catastrophes and draft a response. Have these stock answers available for these situations. Your social media team should be able to draw from these ready-made replies. In addition to brainstorming scenarios and writing responses, the crisis plan should include directions for escalation. Everyone on the social media team must know how to move the crisis up the chain of command depending on the severity of the issue. This is especially necessary for large social media teams.

3) Control Access

Every social media network has options to control who has access and what kind of content they can post. The types of moderators and the levels of permissions vary according to the social network. Another option is to use a social media management platform that includes permission settings for multiple users. This can't prevent every crisis regarding who accesses the brand accounts, but it will help avoid some sticky situations.

4) Ensure social network integrity

Cyber security for social networks matters. Just ask Burger King. They experienced someone networking their Twitter account and turning it into McDonald’s. BK was lucky that the tweets were not malicious, but the hack signaled anyone can be compromised. When a social network updates their privacy policy, it's a good idea to read it and be aware of the latest update. Change passwords every time a member a social media team departs, whether on good or bad terms. Even if no one departs, make a habit to regularly change account passwords and update permissions.

5) Constant monitoring

Timing matters. The social world never sleeps and they will pick up on when something goes wrong. Assign someone to constantly monitor your the networks. The monitor must be able to schedule and unschedule campaigns quickly in the event an emergency arises. For example, say you have a big product launch event happening downtown, but some of the invitations had the wrong address. You can use social to quickly apologize, announce the correct address, and offer something of value in return to these misled customers.

6) Own it

When a social media snafu happens, even if it's not always your fault, be ready to own your mistake and launch a response. The quicker you can issue a statement concerning what happened and the prevention measures you are taking, the more you remain in control of the situation.

When social media works right, everyone is happy. Handled correctly, a bad review or other marketing snafus should never derail your customer’s experience but highlight the incredible service your company provides.