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Managing a Social Media Crisis

Managing a Social Media Crisis

Managing a Social Media Crisis

Social Media is a huge part of the digital experience, it connects brands with their audience, and allows consumers to share experiences with one another – and with 2.789 billion social media users worldwide, the potential reach in a short space of time is astounding.

Many crises stem from physical ‘real world’ problems, but the accessibility of information and the ability for consumers to share it means that these issues then take root in the digital domain – often spreading before your management team is even aware of the situation, or had chance to report on it.

How your business is seen to be dealing with a crisis is now almost as important as how you actually deal with the problem. The digital world is expressive and well-informed, if your audience cannot see or understand what you are doing to rectify a situation, they will assume that you are doing nothing, and this makes the damage all the more potent, and potentially expensive to fix.

Having a plan in place should a crisis occur means that your business is better placed to get straight on with dealing with the issue, rather than having it publicly exposed for an extended period time where interested parties will see your company doing ‘nothing’ as you rush behind the scenes to work out what to do.

Although Crisis Management should be dealt with at a senior level, it is vital that all staff are trained to know what constitutes a crisis – and what they should and shouldn’t do if one does occur.

Identifying a Social Media Crisis

There are different types of crises that can occur – the ones that you can anticipate and prepare for in some way, those that you may prepare for but happen quickly and without warning, and those that happen with no prior warning and could not have been realistically anticipated.

Crises that you can prepare for may include –

  • Service reduction
  • Product recalls
  • Accessibility issues – both to the venue and the menus
  • The use of controversial ingredients
  • Conflict with event scheduling

Crises that you may be prepared for, but happen very quickly with the potential to escalate may include –

  • Health and Hygiene Issues
  • Structural Problems with the Venue
  • Political or Social Activism

Then there are the unexpected events, which may include –

  • The failure of a product or marketing strategy
  • A change made by a rival
  • A negative campaign against your business

Some of these crises can be managed with a proactive strategic approach, others will require a reactive response – and some will need a combination of both.
However, having a plan in place – even if it is just an established chain of command – could make all the difference when it comes to acting quickly and efficiently.

What, Who and How

These are the key factors you need to assess when determining the seriousness of the situation and your approach towards it.

  1. What is Being Said?
    The seriousness of the issue will determine the action – is it a situation where it can be resolved quickly with an appropriate response, or will more action need to be undertaken?
  2. Who Is Saying It?
    There are some issues that will escalate on their own, but others may be exacerbated by Influencers. In the same way that an Influencer can bring business to your venue, they can harm it by posting negative reviews or comments.
    The more influence someone has, the more potential there is for the issue to escalate.
  3. How Often is It Being Said?
    The more people are talking about the issue, the more serious it becomes – shares, retweets and comments bring in un-involved individuals and draws negative attention to the business. By using analytics to measure how often the problem is being spoken about, you can measure the impact, determine if this is a small problem, a growing issue or a crisis and see whether social commentary is growing, peaked or declining.

Once you’ve identified that there is a crisis, it is important to take the right action – people will judge your company based on how it responds, and a negative impression can be extremely damaging and long lasting.

This is where having a dedicated and devoted Public Relations (PR) team, who are specialized in dealing with Social Media is extremely important.

Your team need to have assessed the level of severity and gauged the mood of the public. They need to know what sort of response is required and how best to deliver it.
Having a Social Listening strategy in place is an ideal way of collecting and monitoring this data. It may also allow the team to detect changes in consumer mood and diffuse a potential crisis before it even arises.

Digital Marketing Manager, Fouad Khafaga Talks About Crisis Management

Why and how should a business prepare for Crisis Management?
The answer to why is because it will happen. Every business in the world either faced or will face some kind of crisis; that tested everything the brand stands for.

Some brands have an active inertia effect – they work in their business not on their business. Meaning they get engaged and overwhelmed by the day to day activities, that they there is a little thought goes into such strategic problems like crisis management.

The answer to how – is like a story about a King that had to punish his son by throwing a big rock at him. The issue here is that because he is the king he had to follow the law, and because he is a father he didn’t want to hurt his son. He struggled until a Wise Man from his people told him to break that rock into very small stones which then will have minimal effect on the son.

In other words, breaking a crisis down into minimal manageable problems, and having the respective teams deal with those problems to dissolve the crisis is far more likely to prevent the crisis.

Looking at social media, for example with a brand hiding, deleting, ignoring and not responding in a timely manner to their community.
If a brand is that fragile to negative exposure, then that brand is more likely not to survive an avalanche of negative reviews (crisis) when an event goes not as planned.

What’s the worst that could happen?
Brand losses brand equity and ultimately credibility.

A real-life example of a crisis that was managed well would be at an event we recently attended.
We had a total shut down of the internet – the hotel we were in just had Wi-Fi problems, so we were totally cut off not just from producing and publishing content but from updates, behind the scenes work, major events moments, etc.
We were not even able to respond and interact with the audience already present at the event.

The solution was actually dividing the crisis into urgent situations that needed to be solved

  • We had a situation room set up (before the event) in a different place with monitoring screen just for social listening, monitoring and interacting with existing audience
  • Before the event we had already scheduled content ( quotes, opening remarks, awards announcements ). That content was published by publishing tools
  • We had 3 members of the team capture key moments and event milestone live on different platforms through data plan
  • Finally we created an event summary videos to make sure that the offline experience was captured online

Steps to Take

As we discussed, there are different types of crises – and planning and forethought can potentially prevent many of them from ever developing; and even if a crisis does then arise, with clear procedure or a chain of command available, the impact can be lessened.

By taking a proactive approach to your business, and putting safeguards and strategies in place, you put your company in a stronger position to deal with any issues that arise.

Actions to take before a Crisis occurs:

  1. Develop Clear Social Media Strategies – such as Social Media Management
  2. Use Data Analytics to Monitor your Brand – utilized Social Listening to understand your audience
  3. Train Your Staff to recognise changes in attitude and trends online and in the venue
  4. Brainstorm various situations and make plans for the ones that seem more likely to occur
  5. Establish a clear chain of command and assign roles so your staff know who to speak with

Actions to take during a Crisis

  1. Gauge the public mood and prepare an appropriate response
  2. Be honest and transparent – let your customers hear from you and not a third party
  3. Give relevant updates regularly
  4. Respond to questions and comments where possible
  5. If not possible, post a list of frequently asked questions and direct your audience to those
  6. If it has affected people directly – apologize, be humble.

Actions to take after a Crisis

  1. Continue monitoring the data analytics to be sure that the situation is resolved
  2. Thank people for their patience and encourage their continued support
  3. Avoid phrases such as ‘lessons learned’ – give concrete evidence of any changes being made
  4. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen – learn from it and grow

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