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How To Handle A Social Media Crisis

It's not hard to see why things like social media monitoring tools have become so popular over the years. Now that everyone has access to each other over many platforms, all a company needs is one unhappy customer and they can have a social media crisis on their hands.

We all know what happen with Volkswagen on September 18th, the day when the emissions scandal broke from the US. They decided to post nothing on their social media accounts a whole week until they posted a statement from Michael Horn. "Consumers have, of course, been inundating Volkswagen on social networks" a case study from eConsultancy show us.

This can have a devastating effect on smaller companies who can't afford to lose precious customers due to the word-of-mouth complaints that reach far more people than ever before. A social media crisis might not break your company in half, but it could seriously hinder your growth so we're going to look at how you should prepare for the inevitable that will come in this new digital age we live in.

How to manage a social media crisis

#1. Building A Plan Of Attack

I know you've heard this a million times in the past, but the key to a good offense is a great defense. You can't even begin to hear the noise being generated right now unless you have a massive team because there are far too many social media platforms and not enough employees to keep an eye on them all. If you set up online media monitoring you will know when anyone is badmouthing your company through the software as soon as it's been posted.

There are many different ways you can set it up, but the social media monitoring software currently available will have eyes and ears everywhere so you'll be brought up to speed on any mention of your company before it flares up. If you do your homework you'll learn where these attacks on your company are likely to come from, and you'll also learn how you should handle them because there are subtle differences on each platform due to how the messages can spread.

#2. Guiding Your Social Media Team

You might be able to handle any negative feedback with ease, but can you say the same thing about all the members of your social media team? For example, do certain people on your team have the authority to offer things to unhappy customers you've truly wronged or does everything need to go through you first slowing the whole process down? I feel it's in your best interests to offer everyone limited extra power when dealing with a social media crisis.

That power will be useless if they don't know how to handle customers correctly to begin with. Someone could be a master at building a following and driving traffic to your site, but when they interact with an irate customer they could amplify the problem with their hands tied behind their back. That can be alleviated through proper training, and if your company has standard operating procedures written for these occasions it's hard for anyone to put a foot wrong.

#3. Respond To The Crisis Early

As we mentioned before, with the use of social media monitoring software you will find out if someone has mentioned you online if they include certain words in their rant. You don't need to wait until you hear something on the grapevine once it's grown out of control, so you shouldn't sit around watching what happens from afar. You must jump in as soon as possible because it's the easiest way to calm things down before a revolution starts to build momentum.

Now that everyone knows companies are fully active on social media, you can't even sit quietly in the background and pretend you don't know what is happening by playing dumb. Users will tag you so many times they will know you're choosing to ignore the situation, which will ruin your reputation even more. Unfortunately, you're forced to take action, so it's lucky you can avert a social media crisis with online media monitoring tools.

#4. Offer Your Customers Immediate Support

Someone could say a lot of terrible things about your company because they're sitting behind a computer screen and you're faceless. You'd be surprised by how many people you can control straight away by apologizing and offering them immediate support. They won't think of you as a faceless company anymore, and since they're likely to be a nice human being they will stop trying to ruin your reputation while they listen to what you have to say.

Unless your customer is completely in the wrong and trying to appease the situation will cost you a great deal of money, I would throw in the towel and give them what they want even if you're not to blame for what is happening. The harsh reality is that social media now controls the world, and it can easily ruin the great reputation of companies who try to fight in. Understand that even if you win a Facebook battle you've already lost the war.

#5. Monitor The Crisis Until It's Over

It's annoying when you think you've put a fire out and a little bit of oxygen sets everything ablaze again. The same thing can happen on social media because of what we've already mentioned: even someone with a small voice has the ability to create massive uproar depending on how quickly their message spreads. You might have turned an angry customer into a happy one, but that doesn't necessarily mean their original message won't spread through social channels with a life of its own.

Someone else could have experienced the same thing in the past, and once they see someone else speaking out about you, they could launch into a verbal assault too. If this ends up having a domino effect it could go on for ages and you'd have even more cleaning up to do, so carefully monitor the crisis until it's over. That should mean using a combination of online media monitoring tools and the human touch to guarantee the best results.

Wrapping up

People are talking about your brand every day. Find them and join the conversion, no matter how good or bad it is. From the negative comments to natural disaster, it’s important to be prepared and to have a proper plan for the social media accounts. Do your homework for a social media crisis before it happens.

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