Many people often wonder what a social media crisis actually entails. Well, a crisis is usually something negative that occurs that could impact your brand’s reputation.

This includes anything from an unhappy customer posting something bad about your company, one of your employees sharing an inappropriate photo online or even a campaign that has gone horribly wrong.

Here, the team at amaSocial provide their tips and tricks on how to prevent, maintain and plan for a social media crisis.

Tips for preventing a crisis

Have a social media policy in place
The best way to prevent a crisis is to make sure that you have a policy put in place to protect your brand’s image on social media. This means ensuring that your employees have been given the correct guidelines for posting brand-friendly content, avoiding anything that may harm your reputation, as well as implementing rules on how to deal with customers.

These rules should be able to guide social media and community managers into knowing exactly what to say when a crisis has struck and when there is an unhappy customer on your social page.

Here are three quick tips to get you started:

1. Get approval from your manager for brand posts
2. Give feedback on all engagement on your platforms
3. Ensure your posts comply with copyright law

Know your hashtags
Constructing a shareable and catchy hashtag is great for engagement and can be used as a means to grab the attention of new potential followers. However, it can also be dangerous if the hashtag has the potential to have a double meaning — you don’t want that, unhappy audiences can get very creative.

For example, imagine you’re a brand that produces health and beauty products and you create a hashtag that uses a word like ‘best’ in the hashtag #BestShampoo. This #tag can easily be changed to a tone of sarcasm if something ever goes wrong, and that kind of thing spreads like wildfire on social media, particularly on platforms like Twitter.

Rather use ‘generalised’ words when you bring out a new product by focusing on the brand name or refer to what you are campaigning about or for.

Don’t capitalise on other crises
It might be tempting to jump aboard a trending campaign that has received negative coverage, as this is potentially a way to gain more traction to your brand. However, doing this can be hazardous to your own reputation, and things can quickly go wrong.

This is especially true when considering campaigns with a lot of controversy surrounding their content; you don’t want to get caught up in their fire. If there’s a hashtag associated with something negative or an initiative that has gone wrong, don’t get caught in the crossfire by using the hashtag in one of your own campaigns or posting about it.

Although the hashtag may be trending, you don’t want users to follow your page for the wrong reasons or just for that single post you made about the trending topic. Stick to your brand’s tone and voice, and only talk about content in relation to your business.

Have the correct tools at the ready
So, we’re hoping that at this point you have at least tried to create a social media reputation management plan (right? Right). Well, social listening services can be a huge help to include in your plan.

These tools have the ability to alert you about mentions of your brand’s name on social media (even those that aren’t attached to your @handle!). You’ll also be notified about particular topics surrounding your brand that are starting to gain more traction, as well as when there is a spike in posts revolving around a complaint.

This means you’ll be able to spot a crisis before it actually turns into, well, a crisis. You’ll be able to react and respond to the negative post and hopefully resolve the issue before it escalates, saving your brand’s image from being tarnished.

Know how to identify a crisis
Not every crisis is a crisis for your brand. What could be a disaster for one business owner might be the norm for other companies. You can’t please everyone, so you need to be able to identify what is actually going to be a crisis for your brand. If there is a customer going off about a situation that is completely out of your control, then you need to be able to have faith in the rest of your followers to see that the customer in question is simply being unreasonable.

For example, if you’re a fast-food franchise and your competitor offers chips with a particular flavour of salt, and your business does not offer this same product, there is nothing more you can do for the angry customer demanding the salt beyond offering them an alternative. If they’re still not happy with the solutions you do have on offer, and they take to social media … so be it. Sometimes, you just need to learn when to let go.

Tricks for when a crisis is occurring

Act fast
You’ve probably seen this point in just about every guide that you read regarding a crisis: Respond, respond, respond! Do not just let the crisis escalate. Now, this is assuming that you have identified the crisis appropriately and that it is indeed a problem for your brand.

The best place to start is at the source, so ensure that you’re responding to the unhappy consumer so that they know their needs are being addressed.

Thereafter, you can send out a message to the rest of your followers to let them know that you are aware of what has occurred and that the problem is being addressed. The best thing to do, if it’s an issue with one of your products or services, is to ask the unhappy consumer to message you privately detailing their issue.

Once you are in contact with them, you can work through the problem carefully and address any queries they may have.

Keep your team in the loop
The last thing you want is your boss to log onto one of your company’s social media platforms and see a line of messages that are trashing their brand.

Thus, informing your team is important for two reasons:

1. Your other team members might have some ideas on how to solve the problem as well as what to say to whoever started the conversation around your brand.

2. It keeps everyone up to speed on what’s happening so that they can work on other aspects of the management plan, such as putting a stop to future posts surrounding that topic.

Have a post-management plan in place
After the crisis, you’re going to want to explain to your followers what went on, as well as ensure that they’re still happy with your services. Compile a well-thought-out message together with your team and explain what happened and let them know it was resolved.

This is also a learning opportunity for your brand, so you can even take it further and send out a survey or poll to your audience and ask them if they’re experiencing the same problem, or ask them about any issues they may have with your products / services so that you may improve on them.

Frequent polls and surveys are key to learning about any kinks in your business that you can smooth over. They don’t have to be about any specific problems, but you can send out polls every few weeks just to ensure that your customers are satisfied, as well as to find out what more they want from your brand.

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