So, you done fudged up on social media. Forgot to log in to your personal account and said something inappropriate? Used the wrong image? It happens, we’re all human. We make mistakes, overlook details, and are sometimes just flat out wrong.

But what matters most is how you conduct yourself during one of these social media crises. Let’s walk through a few tips on how to handle these unfortunate moments.

Is this actually a crisis?

Keep in mind that not every negative mention of your organization on social media is cause for alarm. You’re bound to get some negative feedback from time to time. If you see something negative jump in and do a little customer service magic and be on your way.

Receiving negative feedback and being able to improve the situation is a good thing. It lets you learn and grow. It also shows your other customers that you’re willing and able to respond to criticism.

If what you are seeing is wildly skewed negative in a major way and there is a ton of it, then it might be time to deal with a crisis. In that case it’s time to buckle down and get things done.

Plan Ahead

Having a crisis strategy is like having insurance. You hope to never have to use it but when you do, you’re thanking your lucky stars it’s there.

Your crisis plan should at least include the following:

  • A list of people who should be immediately notified and kept up to date on any progress
  • Pre-approved messaging like emails, scripts, press releases, and social media responses
  • Roles of those involved and approval processes

Planning ahead will keep you from going into meltdown mode when things get hot. You’ll be able to refer to the plan and determine next steps. The worst time to plan for a crisis is in the middle of a crisis.

Having a crisis plan lets you act quickly, which is imperative when handling these situations. Honestly, if you’re currently in the middle of a crisis and have taken the time to read this article: 

  1. Thanks for reading, we appreciate it. Share the link. Follow us on social media.
  2. You’re wasting precious time! Maybe read faster… but also come back later and share the link. Follow us on social media.

Social Listening

Social listening is the monitoring of social media channels for customer feedback or mentions of your brand. By setting up a social listening program like Hootsuite you’re able to track keywords, topics, competitors and industries in order to determine what conversations are happening out in the social media world. 

On a normal day you would use this to discover any customer service opportunities. On a not-so-normal day you might uncover a social media crisis you would not have otherwise found. A social listening tool will allow you to get ahead of a problem before it gains steam and boils over into a full-blown crisis.

Again, having a crisis plan is great but you’re trying to avoid using it at all costs.

Stop all scheduled posts

If you’re in the middle of a crisis the last thing you want to do, besides making a plan like I mentioned before, is to have an unrelated post go out. 

When a crisis occurs you’re no longer in normal business mode. So the messages you send out shouldn’t be either. Until the crisis is controlled, all information coming from you should be related to the situation at hand.

If the house is burning down, don’t sell me some carpeting. Also, ew who’s using carpeting these days? Hardwood floors or nothing. Get out of here with your shag carpet, Ethel.

Engage with followers

Be open and honest with your followers. If someone is asking questions about the situation, make sure you answer them. The last thing you want is for imaginations to run wild and for others to fill in the unknowns. 

Acknowledging the mistake is your best move. Own it. Don’t just delete it and walk away — it’s the internet, nothing goes away forever. 

If the post in question is offensive and you absolutely need to delete it, make sure to post an apology immediately after deleting the post, if not directly before deleting. Basically, you don’t want a lot of time between deleting and apologizing. That gives too much time for speculation and for other people to control the situation.

Keep your employees in the loop

When something serious happens people are going to follow any route they can to get answers. Often times, that means going to whoever they know that works for you. In this case you’ll want to arm your employees with as much information as possible. 

Tell them what’s happening and what’s going to happen. Again, you don’t want people filling in the gaps and speculating on the situation. That’s how incorrect information gets out and at that point It can snowball and get worse.

Learn from the social media crisis

After the social media crisis has calmed down and the smoke is clearing take this time to assess what happened. 

How can you prevent a crisis from happening again? 

What steps should be taken the next time a crisis happens? 

What tools and procedures should be implemented to reduce the effects of another crisis? 

Don’t let the thought of a crisis scare you away from social media. Social media is still one of the most effective customer service and marketing tools available. More often than not, utilizing social media is necessary.

Don’t shy away from building relationships with your customers because something bad might happen. Go out there and have fun! But like, an appropriate amount of fun. It’s a spectrum, you’ll figure it out.