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Don’t let a tweet bring you down: 3 top tips for managing a social media crisis

Anton Koekemoer
I'm your friendly neighbourhood digital marketing specialist. I specialise in helping brands connect with targeted customers by enhancing their online presence through emerging web-based communication channels. I... More

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While it’s crucial that you communicate with your audience if you experience a social media crisis, it’s just as important that you communicate in a way that isn’t insulting or negatively impacting your brand. One negative comment, tweet, Facebook status update or a YouTube video can spread like a plague online and turn into a full-on social media disaster.

A social media crisis can happen at any moment. Everyone that has access to the web could potentially update their own network on their favourite social media channel when they have a nasty experience with a brand. A few years ago it used to be the norm that you had to pick up the phone if you had a complaint about the company, or you had to rely on snail mail. The times have changed and people want to be heard in real-time on a mass scale.

Here are a couple of tips to prevent a social media crisis from snowballing into a serious disaster:

Develop social media guidelines
Before you start uploading your Twitter avatar or updating your status on Facebook, make sure that you have some social media guidelines and a policy in place for your business. This shouldn’t cover your business’ use of the social web, but how your employees are using social media relating to your brand. When creating your guidelines and policy, try to be as clear as possible, outlining everything that is not allowed to be shared and discussed on the social web.

Once you have your guidelines and policy, sit down and discuss it with your employees so that they understand it. In my opinion, it’s really not enough to just have a guidelines and policy document in place. Create a listening outpost as well, so you can proactively monitor and react on what is currently being said about you online.

Be active and consistent
If your business has active social media profiles, it’s very important to stay consistent with your updates. Don’t start by being active on the social web for the first few weeks and then fade away. Every day is full of opportunities that you can connect with new people or respond to queries and complaints about your business. To start wholeheartedly and then slack off basically sends a negative message to your audience about your business. It’s very important that you are consistent on the social media channels that you are using.

Respond appropriately to comments
When responding to problems or complaints that are public, always respond appropriately. If the comment is negative with an angry tone, never reply with sarcasm or anger. What turns a social media crisis into a disaster is often when you respond negatively without thinking about the effects and ripples your comment will cause.

It is very important to respond to people who are attacking you on the social web. It’s very easy to ignore them, but the problem will not go away. If you are receiving new complaints online, gather your team first and discuss a possible solution before you respond to the comment. Be sure to proofread your reply before you publish it. Missing a few words can make a big difference to the message you are trying to get across.