By Claire Beaumont, Head of PR and Content, Igniyte – an online reputation management company (www.igniyte.co.uk)
Social media means that businesses can expose their brands and products to a broader audience in a more relatable and approachable way. Building a positive online reputation through social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram has never been easier. But with the good comes the bad, and it is now even easier to become involved in a crisis that can destroy hard-built reputations and relationships – look at the effect of Dulux’s reputation after making some sarcastic tweets about their new sponsorship.
WHAT IS A SOCIAL MEDIA CRISIS?
A crisis is an adverse event that can have a long-term impact on your company’s reputation. Social media has changed the way people can interact with your business and brand, which is even more critical when you’re providing a service that relies on satisfied customers.
A crisis can start for many reasons; online trolls, an article in the media, or even how you manage your customer service enquiries. However, it starts, your audience and stakeholders expect you to deal with it quickly and effectively.And it all begins with preparation.
PREPARING FOR A CRISIS
Preparation is the best form of defence. Being aware of your digital footprint and the conversations about your business or brand will reduce any fallout from any potential disaster.
1. Monitor your brand, or business name using social monitoring tools. Listening tools like Meltwater or BrandMentions will give you an insight into what is being said about your brand.You can check spikes in negative sentiment, allowing you to address any issues before it becomes a social media crisis.
2. Have a social media policy in place for your staff. Set out any expectations and guidelines for your team who use social media.
3. Have a crisis management plan and response strategy in place.
Acting quickly in a crisis will help mitigate any fallout.Your goal should include guidelines on responses, which staff will be responsible for what area, and who is in charge of internal and external communications.
4. Have community guidelines. Having set policies that visitors should accept will allow you some control over the content they post and the behaviour you expect from people.
5. Have a shutdown process. If the worst comes to it, and you have to decide to leave social media channels or shut them down temporally – having a plan in place will always help.
6. Test your strategy. Test your plan against different scenarios and make adjustments where necessary.
HOW TO MANAGE A SOCIAL MEDIA CRISIS
How you manage and react to a crisis will be the difference between unrepairable damage and your reputation remaining salvageable. So how do you address a crisis if it does happen?
1.Assess the situation. Ask yourself, what is happening right now? How many comments have been made? Is there an article in the media? Who is involved? Understanding the answers to these questions will help you plan for a resolution.
2.Communicate. This means internally and externally. Keep stakeholders up to date with factual information will ensure that everyone remains on the same page. Don’t forget to apologise if you are in the wrong.
3. Know when to pause a conversation. Comments and discussions can become heated during a crisis. Do not get involved in conversations; stick to the facts.
4. Silence. This may or may not be the best policy when it comes to a social media crisis. Be timely with updates, but most of all, be honest and sincere. Stick to facts and never respond with emotions.
5. Know your spokesperson. If you have planned for this, you will know your spokesperson. Ensure they keep to facts and don’t bring the business, or company, into further disrepute.
After the event, it’s time for a debrief. Did the strategy work? What went wrong and what went right? What needs to be improved for next time? Consider any extra steps that should be taken, and make sure you take this time to ensure you have an excellent social media strategy in place.