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How to Handle a Social Media Crisis

How do we handle any kind of crisis is life? While there are certainly some people who hunker down, shell shocked, and wonder why they didn’t see it coming, most of us try to prepare for potential disasters so that we can sail through with ease.

It’s not always possible to plan for the unknown, but Californians still buy earthquake insurance and Floridians still buy flood insurance. You might not know when a catastrophe will strike or how bad the damage will be, but if you pay attention and put a sensible plan in place, you can minimize harm and recover more quickly.

The same basic principle applies to virtual crises that can have a very real impact on your company and your brand perception. Planning for a social media crisis, even if you don’t know precisely what it might be, can give you the ability to act appropriately to mitigate damage and in some cases, even turn a potentially damaging situation to your advantage by making speedy reparations. Here are a few tips to prepare for the social media crisis you didn’t know was coming.

Understand What Constitutes a Crisis
The last thing you need is Chicken Little running around screaming that the sky is falling when there’s no cause for alarm. What constitutes a social media crisis? There are a couple of factors.

First, you want to look for a shift in what people are saying on social media, specifically related to complaints. If it’s the same old stuff and the volume is relatively consistent, it’s certainly a concern, but not really a crisis. When you start seeing a high volume of new complaints, it’s time to assess the level of threat and implement a response protocol.

Of course, you also have to consider the impact of the complaints you’re seeing. A minor complaint about your company constantly being out of stock in a popular color or feature of product shouldn’t be ignored, but it isn’t exactly a crisis. If people are saying your product is unsafe and causes bodily harm, it’s time to spring into action – these types of complaints could have a serious impact on your brand image and your profits.

Keep Your Ear to the Ground
Once you know what a social media crisis looks like, you need to keep your eyes peeled. Awareness of what people are saying about your products, your company, and your brand can help you to get ahead of the curve in a crisis situation, perhaps quelling it before it even has an impact. Assign part of your marketing team to track and monitor chatter related to your company, using keyword alerts or social media listening tools to stay on top of what consumers are saying about you.

Create a Scalable Plan for Response and Recovery
Not every crisis is a DEFCON 1 situation, and you don’t necessarily want social media managers running to the C-suite for something that could be addressed by customer service support staff. Preparing for a crisis means having protocols in place so that everyone knows what to do and how to properly escalate, depending on the severity of the situation.

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