Crisis: 8 Tips for Managing Crises on Social Media

Posted by Kaden Jacobs, APR
June 6, 2024

Let’s face it – social media crises can quickly become a company’s worst nightmare. One minute you’re monitoring feeds as usual; the next, a contentious issue goes viral, and you’re scrambling to deal with negativity flooding every channel. These high-stakes situations are immensely stressful for any organization.

However, with proper preparation and strategy, companies can effectively manage even the most inflammatory social media crises. By following these eight tips, you can equip yourself with the tools to proactively respond, mitigate risks and maintain credibility during even the most challenging social media situations.

1. Have a Plan. Create a detailed social media crisis plan and decision tree before any issues arise. Identify who will be responsible for monitoring (e.g., social media manager), what approval processes are required for responses (e.g., legal/executive review) and how you will communicate across departments (e.g., regular meetings). Document these policies and processes thoroughly and conduct periodic training.

2. Monitor Constantly. Set up monitoring systems to track brand mentions, common misspellings, CEO/executive names, product names and crisis keywords across all social platforms. Many affordable tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Talkwalker can monitor in real-time. By being vigilant, you can respond quickly or even anticipate issues before they arise.

3. Be Human and Empathetic. During a social media crisis, it’s crucial to respond with humanity and empathy. It’s easy to come across as cold or overly corporate, but by using language that conveys that you understand the emotional impact and frustrations customers/stakeholders are feeling, you can better manage the crisis.

4. Respond Quickly. While accuracy is vital, you must also respond promptly on social media before narratives become cemented. Have preapproved holding statements ready to allow everyone involved enough time to find answers before issuing a full response.

5. Pay Attention to Privacy Laws. Familiarize yourself with data privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Avoid sharing personal details about employees, customers or other individuals impacted by the crisis without proper consent. This is a prime example of when public relations and legal teams must intersect on appropriate responses.

6. Acknowledge and Apologize. If the company made a mistake, own up to it. Express empathy, remorse and a commitment to making things right. Customers respect transparency during tough times, and apologies can shorten the overall crisis cycle.

7. Provide Solutions. Move quickly from addressing the situation to proposing solutions and next steps. Demonstrate you are in control and have a solid plan for improvement. Companies should follow through with these plans and continue to update their audiences, even after the initial crisis subsides.

8. Shift the Conversation. Once the crisis has stabilized, start reintroducing positive brand messaging and content. Look for opportunities to change the subject and move stakeholders’ attention elsewhere.

Ultimately, effective social media crisis management blends meticulous preparation with an ability to communicate with accountability and emotional intelligence. While unique variables will arise, sticking to best practices around planning, monitoring and empathetic response can help mitigate severity and protect long-term brand reputation. Social media’s impact on business is well established, and the onus lies with companies to proactively manage their online communities to address any potential crises.

The time to prepare for a crisis is now. We can help!

Kaden Jacobs, APR, is a vice president on the media relations team and is based in Augusta, GA.