How to Deal with a Social Media Crisis

What happens when brands are constantly connected with their customers in real time on social media? It’s really great when businesses communicate with them and engage them with relevant content. However, once in a while an employee may send out an unsavory tweet or a post a hastily composed message and offend customers.

How Dangerous is a Social Media Crisis?

A social media crisis is quite unlike any other that a business may encounter. And the reason for this is that with social media, news spreads like fire, well perhaps, even faster. People like brands that they can trust and relate to. Social media can help companies establish a comfortable rapport with their shoppers.  And the flip side of the coin is that if customers find that a business turns a blind eye to complaints on its social media account or blatantly offends their sensibilities, they are likely to blacklist it. To make matters worse, not only will they not buy the brand, but they will use social media to ensure that they share their views and opinions with friends, and friends of friends.

How to Prepare for a Crisis

The only way to deal with a social media crisis is to prepare for one, well in advance. Such preparation can also help a business avoid a potential crisis. Here are some key issues to keep in mind:

  • It is vital that a company is clear about its social media policy and requires clear guidelines for the same. The employees must be well versed with the same. A business manager must decide which employees will have access to the brand’s social media accounts. And accordingly there should be a schedule that will ascertain that they are monitored frequently through the weekday as well as the weekends. This will ensure that social listening is a priority for the business.
  • The list of topics on which the business will never post should be very clear. When a KitchenAid employee made a tasteless joke about President Obama, it was not just in bad taste but spoke volumes about the brand’s social media plan. The apologies that followed couldn’t repair the damage that had already been dealt.
  • Often a crisis can be averted if a business reacts in time. The worst mistake a brand can make is not to react to customer complaints. Dell is a brand that is known to avoid responding to its customers and has suffered for its inaction. It is important that a brand is able to clearly identify and analyze the problem that it faces, and respond accordingly. Often a well worded reply to a post or tweet can improve customer service and deescalate a problem.
  • Create a flow of information. It is important that when a problem crops up all levels of management are kept informed. It is vital that information is quickly circulated so that the brand can react appropriately.
  • Acknowledging a problem is the first step towards dealing with it and also an effective step to avoid a crisis. Once your customers know that a brand acknowledges a problem, they are likely to be a little more patient to see how the brand will resolve it. Thereafter information needs to be gathered and an appropriate response made, on social media as well as other channels. The brand’s response should be directly proportional to the type of problem and urgency. When Codero, a web hosting company dealt with a power outage that affected many of its clients’ websites, it responded efficiently and effectively. The brand turned a difficult situation into one that resulted in many referrals. It is critical that the response directly addresses the situation and isn’t a general message of the brand’s commitment or one of self-promotion.
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  • Don’t hide or pretend that a problem doesn’t exist. When the band Sons of Maxwell found that one of their guitars, marked ‘fragile’ had been damaged on a United Airlines flight, the band tried to communicate with the airlines for over nine months, in vain. It was only when they made a YouTube video addressing the problem and it received 14 million views that the airlines decided to react.


It is important that a business understands that when it faces a problem or crisis on social media, the world is watching. People closely observe how it deals with a problem and with its customers. This deeply impacts brand image and reputation, and customer loyalty.

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