On social media, anything can spread like wildfire. While many marketers strive for virality, it’s a double-edged sword. A viral nightmare instead of a viral sensation can be a disaster. This means having a social media crisis management plan is essential. Crisis preparedness will help you mitigate risks and reduce any damage. Below, is how to prepare for and manage a social media crisis. 

Define social media crisis

A negative comment here and there doesn’t qualify as a crisis. Everyone has people say negative things about them online. A situation should qualify as a social media crisis if it:

  • Involves strong negative emotions
  • Can have a lasting negative impact on your brand reputation
  • Can confuse your customers, stakeholders, clients, and even employees
  • Has the potential to go viral

To be prepared, companies should have a set of predefined topics that make them vulnerable. For this, study what happened inside and outside of the company. This goes for both online and offline. You can list the situations and topics that have triggered a crisis in the past for you. Also, list the issues that have led to industry-wide crises or have affected your competitors in the past. By having an evaluation of these situations, you’ll be able to prepare responses to conversation that can erupt in the future.

Build a social media crisis communication policy

A policy document serves as a guideline for crisis communication. It can help respond to issues without any delay. This lets you avoid debating on how to handle the situation. Also, you avoid having to wait for approval from senior management. A policy document should include:

  • Channel specific policies- Every channel is unique and has a different communication format. Make sure you highlight the difference in the policy document so that the communication team follows the content guidelines. 
  • Audience specific policies- Responding to a dissatisfied customer is different than replying to a journalist. The policy should cover the different segments of audiences. Also, it should provide clear instructions on how to respond to each type of audience, as well as who will respond to them. 
  • Line of approval- The idea of creating a social media crisis communication policy is to ensure that everything moves swiftly. However, certain topics may require multiple approvals from different levels of management. The line of approval for each topic should be covered in the document so that communication managers know who to contact.

Internal communication

During a crisis, you must update other employees and stakeholders about the situation. Misinformation spreads fast and can cause more damage during a crisis. Communicate with your employees and all stakeholders in a timely manner to inform them of the latest updates. You should consider sharing a list of do’s and don’ts to ensure that everyone knows what they can and can’t say. 

Create a dedicated crisis response page

Instead of having several communication channels, try to consolidate the conversations on a single page. You can create a dedicated landing page on your website that contains all of the information about the crisis. This can include how it happened, steps being taken by the company to prevent it from happening again, what affected customers should do, and contact information for affected customers. 

Respond on social media

The first step towards moving into a positive direction is acknowledging the issue. You need to take responsibility and ensure your customers and audience that you are investigating the issue. Make your intentions clear. Share the crisis response page on social media and ask your followers to share their questions and concerns on that page. 

When responding to tweets and posts, make sure that you communicate in an open and transparent manner. Some customers may not be convinced even after your best efforts. However, you should not begin an argument with them.