The amount of social media crises in recent history should not come as a surprise. Social media is prized by corporations who are trying to make a meaningful impact in their customers’ lives, but when everyone is online 100% of the time, things can blow up in a matter of an hour. It is important to have a clear, practical plan of action set in place for when a social media crisis happens so your organization will be prepared.
Perhaps one of the most important steps in crisis communication is preparation. Set aside some time one day to draw up a crisis response plan. It is worthwhile to imagine crisis situations that are the most likely to affect your organisation as well as ones that are far-fetched and extreme. Also consider collateral crises- a crisis that could affect your industry or organization indirectly. In your plan, address these points:
-Consider a social media monitoring application to keep an eye on all of your accounts at once. Apps like HootSuite, TweetDeck, or even Google Alerts can keep you in the know of what’s going on online. These can serve a secondary purpose of helping to manage your reputation online.
-Be sure to halt any auto-posting on all social media accounts. This is a huge faux pas and can worsen the crisis. It makes your organization seem oblivious to the fact that a crisis is occurring, or that you are purposefully ignoring it.
-Establish a chain of command to respond to the crisis. Delegate who needs to do what, and if necessary determine a spokesperson to respond to media inquiries. In some severe crises, it can be a good idea to set up a separate, easily-accessible web page about the crisis. It should be updated frequently, so make sure that this task is delegated to the right people.
-Do not ignore what is happening, be responsive. This means frequently updating social media accounts with developing information and responding to concerned and upset consumers. Following up with everyone who tweets you or posts on your Facebook wall is necessary customer relations. Also, try to avoid copy and pasting the same message as a response, which can seem disingenuous. And please, don’t act outwardly defensive. This can and will make you look like the bad guy.
-After you have implemented your crisis response plan and things have cooled off, it’s time to reflect on what happened. How did this happen and why? How can it be prevented? How can it be handled better and more smoothly? What worked and what definitely did not? After answering these questions, implement changes into your crisis response plan.
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