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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Social Media Tips For Companies In Crisis

Recently, as a communications company, we’ve been watching a national e-commerce company really jump off the deep end with their social media communications in light of negative press.  The reality is that if you have a company, chances are that you have a social media marketing plan and your company is trying to conveying a certain controlled message on any combination of sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram and more.  And whether you like it or not, even if your company is not on social media, your employees undoubtedly are.  

In this article I want to address some tips for your company of how to manage your social media when your company comes into a major crisis like national news of the firing of your CEO, or a minor crisis like a negative customer review or complaint posted to your Facebook Page. Along with some suggestions from PandoDaily Journalist Michael Carney, Social Media Marketing Manager Nicole Logan and Social Media Expert Andy Karuza of, here are our tips for how to handle negative crisis situations on your social media sites.

1. HAVE A PLAN.  There is nothing worse than having negative social media engagement, open accusations in the press or negative news about you or your company an NOT having a plan for how to deal with it accordingly.  Even if you don’t have social media for your brand, remember that your employee’s do. Make sure that they are well aware of your company’s policies regarding social media in advance. Andy Karuza of suggests “First and foremost, your front line social communicators, account managers, social media managers or whomever you refer to them as need to have the proper authority to make quick decisions in order to satisfactorily meet your companies immediate social media online needs in case of a crisis. These social media representatives need to have proper direction and a clear plan from upper management and your other customer service platforms. Furthermore, all employee’s should have a broad understanding for your overall company culture, an acute understanding for current industry trends and the company’s strategy, and absolute awareness for what they CAN’T do or say on social media.”

2.  ACT QUICK.   If there is negative press out there, you need to respond quickly. If you have a PR firm, they should have a plan for you in place for how you and your company are going to respond to negative press.   If you don’t have a plan, silence is not in your favor.  A quick, “Thank you for sharing your frustrations / concerns, we are looking into this and will be addressing it soon” should be sufficient for the short term. People, need to know that you are addressing whatever problems and concerns are out there.

3. BE CAREFUL. Keep in mind that anything you say on social media is out there, forever.   Michael Carney, Journalist for PandoDaily points out that, “The internet never forgets, so when you publish something, whether is based on emotion, or someone acting out of step with a company message it is out there forever.” We have all seen news stories with screen shots of a Tweet, or Facebook post someone has made then deleted later because their company didn’t want their message to be a part of the public record.  These days, Twitter has become a new way to make announcements. Do not forget that people are watching your accounts, and they are listening. 

4. DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING.  We all make spelling errors from time to time or say something we shouldn’t. If you’ve ignored #3, and you were not careful in your communications do not delete anything. I know this feels counter-intuitive. However, if your company is in some sort of crisis, especially a large one, deleting communications looks suspicious.  If you have made a spelling, or grammatical error you are better off leaving your post with the mistake and creating a new second post with the corrected grammar and spelling.  If you delete posts, the general consensus is you have something to hide.   Now, if you’ve posted something that you were not supposed to and perhaps will have some negative legal ramifications, sure go ahead and delete it, but chances are someone already took a screen shot of it and you’ll be held liable for it anyways.

5.  ALWAYS RESPOND.  There is nothing more frustrating than tweeting a company a concern you have or watching a well known CEO completely ignore a major issue on social media.   More than anything it is important that your users are being heard. Now this is where it gets tricky. Be sure to keep your responses short, professional, honest and as positive as possible.   If negative concerns have been brought to the attention of your personal social media, a response like “I appreciate you reaching out to me, unfortunately I am not at liberty to speak for the company” should do the trick.  Even if your response is simple, people appreciate that you are listening and not ignoring them. If you can, provide 1-800 numbers, and links to websites where customers can complain. Or, even direct their questions to your PR professional if possible. Lastly, if your company has made some sort of public statement regarding an issue, direct them to that statement if possible.

6.  LISTEN. I know this is hard for many of us to do. But take the time to listen to what journalists, customers, or fans are saying.  Chances are, they are probably right.  If you can’t evaluate their concerns, frustrations, or experiences, you probably shouldn’t be in business at all. Nicole Logan from SocialWerks, a Social Media Marketing Agency, understands the importance of listening, “Anytime there is a negative concern we always respond within 24 hours, or as quickly as possible.  I always direct them to a point of contact so they have someone to talk to.  And, if they want to talk to me offline, I always make myself available.”

7.  APOLOGIZE.Take responsibility for what you can, and apologize if someone has been wronged in some way.  Even if you or your company is not directly responsible for the crisis, an apology is always best.  Try something like “I am very sorry to hear your concerns. That situation sounds really disappointing.”  Nicole Logan says that when working on her social media marketing accounts, “we try our best to alleviate any customer stress or concerns, and we always follow up.  We always have them send us a private message, and we always try to make the situation right no matter what. And, we do our best to end communications on a positive note.”

There is nothing more human than listening, responding and apologizing as we suggested.   Your audience will appreciate it, even if you are guilty of something, trust me!   Your responses will help them connect to both you and your brand on a personal level.  Depending on your level of crisis, a formal statement  posted to your website is not always enough.  Consider sharing a link to this statement on your social media sites with a genuine, appropriate apology attached.  Hopefully this will show that you are being transparent in your communications, that you are making an effort to be honest and that you are empathetic to peoples concerns.

9. SEEK FEEDBACK.  Start a discussion and ask for feedback for your company.  Open yourself up for a discussion if you are able to and seek ways to mend the situation. You never know… the same people who are wailing away on your social media sites just might have advice that will work for your situation! Sure, some complaints may just be looking for a discount, or a something for free, but what if all they want is to be heard?  By simply listening and engaging back, you’ve fixed their concern.

10. LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES. If you slip up and make a mistake, learn from it and do not repeat it. Create a plan and preventative measure so that it won’t happen again.