Social Media

The social media crisis survival guide

By Ali Ryan on June 11, 2023

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An overtop view of a coffee cup sitting on a wooden table with message bubbles designed into the milky foam.

In today’s digital landscape, social media has become the most powerful source of communication and brand exposure. However, along with its benefits, social media also presents significant challenges, including the potential for crises to unfold and escalate – in real-time, rapidly. In such situations, a comprehensive strategy plays a crucial role in managing and mitigating the impact of these crises.

Social media platforms have transformed the speed and reach of information dissemination, making crises highly visible and potentially viral in the blink of an eye. A single negative comment or speech faux pas can rapidly escalate and instantly affect a brand’s

Social media teams need to weave comprehensive crisis management plans into their strategies. PR has vastly expanded beyond the bounds of media outreach and events – it’s on our greater marketing teams, customer service, and beyond. Brand guidelines for identifying potential crisis triggers, establishing monitoring systems, and creating pre-approved response protocols need to branch out to every staff member and team to delegate, comprehend, and execute in everyday engagement with consumers.

When a crisis emerges, quick response time is crucial. As a brand getting in front of a crisis (and never chasing it afterward), you should always provide timely and transparent communication, addressing concerns, clarifying misinformation, and demonstrating a commitment to resolving the issue. Authenticity is always the key to rebuilding trust – not sitting on your hands and hoping for the best. On social media, this means monitoring conversations, sharing updates, and responding to inquiries promptly. You want to ensure a consistent message and tone across all platforms, but ultimately, you want it to come across as genuine and not a robotic, templated response.

Three women gather around a smartphone as they drink their coffees.

Transparency is crucial to maintaining authenticity and credibility, no matter what. Looking at where other brands have gotten it wrong (Starbucks, we’re looking at you) can also help other brands get it right in the future.

So what should you include in your master plan of action?

  • Stay listening – invest in social media monitoring tools to track conversations and mentions of your brand, industry, and key conversations happening internationally. This enables you to detect crises early and respond as promptly as possible!
  • Plan like your job depends on it (it does) – develop a comprehensive strategy for social media and brand communications in general, including protocols for different situations and predefined messaging (or social ‘macros’) to improve response time. Regularly review and update your strategy to keep up with social developments!
  • Timing is everything – respond as soon as you learn of the issue and acknowledge the issue openly. Commit to your community that you’ll find a resolution and quickly. Accountability matters – take responsibility. This goes a long way in diffusing tension and showing a genuine desire to address the situation.
  • Watch your tone – each platform has its own dynamics and audience expectations. Align your responses according to the platform while maintaining consistency in your messaging.

Sounds scary? This is where the importance of a competent social media manager comes into play.

In an era where social media escalations are a very tangible reality, public relations knowledge plays a pivotal role when it comes to your brand communications strategy and in managing and mitigating the impact on brands when this happens via social media. You can navigate these storms effectively by being proactive, responsive, and transparent. Social media crisis management requires a comprehensive plan and a commitment to transparent communication.

Remember, the digital landscape will only continue to evolve, and communications professionals must adapt their brands’ strategies to meet the challenges of crisis management effectively – especially on social media.

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