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Creating a Social Media Crisis Response Plan

Approximately 2.34 billion people use social media worldwide, and that number is expected to increase to nearly three billion by 2020. With an audience that size, it’s no surprise businesses have been using social media platforms to build and bolster a brand and reach new and existing customers online. The size of that audience, though, means maintaining a positive image on those platforms is even more of a necessity for businesses.

It takes time to cultivate a favorable reputation for your brand, but it takes almost none to tear it down. One accidental post or the wrong review catching too much traction can cause that carefully curated identity to crumble. What’s worse—mistakes are going to happen. This is why having a proper crisis response plan in place is crucial. Use the following tips to help you create or improve your own plan.

Be Prepared

To stop a crisis early, you must be prepared and ready before the crisis happens:

  • Form a crisis response team.

Gather employees from various departments, and discuss the potential threats to your online presence, such as a negative post by a customer, a disgruntled employee posting rogue content or a happy employee accidentally posting rogue content. Once the threats have been identified…

  • Create a crisis response flowchart.

Develop a chart with basic yes or no questions for employees to follow in the event of a crisis that allows them to know if and how they should respond. Prioritize ease of implementation and identify, clearly, who exactly is in charge. This will keep the response consistent and prevent unnecessary wastes of time.

  • Use technology.

Another time-saver, it’s beneficial to implement social media listening software like Google Alerts. Once you’ve established a listening protocol to tell the software what is and what is not a social media crisis, the software can alert your response team when your brand is involved in a hotly debated conversation online.

How to Manage a Crisis

Imagine what you could accomplish in 24 hours if you didn’t require sleep. Now imagine what a billion you’s could accomplish. Social media never sleeps, so responding to a crisis quickly is essential. Not only does a delayed response result in more users spreading the content, it tells your customers you’re either not paying attention or you simply don’t care—neither being a good look.

An effective response isn’t just about timing, though. Consider the tips below from our partner and social media expert, VGM Forbin.

  • Acknowledge the problem.

Informing customers that you’re aware of an issue and are working on it goes a long way toward mitigating damages.

  • Quarantine.

Contain an issue to one platform. For instance, if an issue arises on Facebook, the acknowledgement should be on Facebook.

  • Watch your tone.

No matter how angry someone may get, do not respond with anger. Keep your interaction polite, and thank them for their input.

  • Know when to switch platforms.

If you’re interacting with an unhappy customer, it may be best to offer an email or phone number for them the contact your company directly rather than keeping the conversation in a public forum. And, of course, if comments become inappropriate or offensive, just delete them.

  • Educate your employees.

Be sure that all employees are informed of a crisis at hand. Since most everyone uses social media, most users can find out where other users work, which makes every employee with a social media page a potential spokesperson.

  • Learn from your mistakes.

Take stock of the crisis and your response. Decide if your plan needs an adjustment, and be willing to admit to and identify which aspects could have been handled better.  

Expert Advice

Cassi Price, manager of Marketing Strategy at VGM Forbin, stresses the importance of taking the issue offline after the initial address, and she recommends pointing a dissatisfied customer to a specific person rather than sending them back to the main line. Price also recommends leaving negative comments on your page (assuming they aren’t offensive). It may seem counter-intuitive, but it will represent your positive response rate and show your company cares about solutions and actively listens to customers in the hopes of improving.

One Last Step

Practice. Just having a plan in place means nothing if your team fumbles the execution. Conduct drills to help the plan stay fresh in your employees’ minds. They may think it’s silly, but they’ll thank you if/when a crisis occurs. Your customers will appreciate it too. 

Need help managing your online reputation or taking your social media marketing to the next level? Reach out to our partners at VGM Forbin for the expert advice you need!

For more information about protecting your business from risk and ensuring you have the converage you need, contact the team at VGM Insurance today!


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