5 Must-Read Crisis Management Tips for Social Media

June 4, 2013 Uberflip Hub

Social media is tough. You have to build a following and keep them enthralled—all while treading the line of potentially alienating behavior.

The web is rife with resources for building an audience. Let’s talk social media nightmares. Let’s talk ways to avoid them.

Some high-profile brands have already dipped their toes in the waters of scandal so you can have this list of best practices. Learn from their mistakes and protect your brand’s reputation. Check out these five must-read crisis management tips for social media.

1. Enact a strict social media policy

A strong social media policy is your first defense against blunders. Created the right way, it will inform just about every decision your social media management team makes.

Your social media guide should include:

  • Brand voice and tone tips
  • Strict rules on who can post
  • Defined areas of interest for your audience to guide relevant postings
  • Procedures for working with other marketing teams
  • A disaster plan with guidelines like those below

A previous Walmart social media policy didn’t offer enough guidance to staff. Now, the organization not only features more detailed guidelines—it also posts them publicly.

Cisco is another great example. The tech company maintains a detailed social media policy guide to help it ensure proper Twitter and Facebook etiquette.

Managing your brand’s reputation requires a proactive approach. The right social media policy will help guide your team from a high level. But what about tips from a tactical level?

2. Make sure your campaign is airtight

Twitter is a great place for brands to launch targeted campaigns. Many of these revolve around hashtags, the social network’s popular method for tagging topics. Facebook campaigns that solicit user-generated content are also popular ways to engage fans.

These campaigns also have the potential to backfire in creative ways.

McDonald’s learned that the hard way. A recent hashtag campaign backfired on the fast food chain when customers put a negative spin on it. The promoted hashtag #mcdstories earned more horror stories than it did good vibes.

To make your campaigns airtight, check for things like:

  • Double-entendres
  • Grammar or spelling errors
  • Other interpretations in general
  • Results of similar campaigns for other brands

It’s especially important to watch how other campaigns pan out. A savvy social media manager learns from her own experience—but she can also learn a lot from the experience of others.

3. Keep an eye out for trolls

Believe it or not, some Twitter users are out for blood.

Brands and celebs that were previously inaccessible are now in direct contact with everyone—fans and trolls alike. Today’s more mischievous social media users are waiting for an opportunity to make your brand look foolish.

Take Rob Delaney, Twitter’s poster child for crude comedy. He’s a high-profile example of how social media users troll gullible marketers into becoming the butt of the joke. (Just ask Best Buy—an example unfit to print here).

You’d think a man with nearly a million Twitter followers would be on the radar of every social media manager in the country. But brands still respond to him in inappropriate situations. And he makes them pay dearly for it.

It’s your job to identify known trolls with large social media followings and stay poised for attack. A clever response can turn the tables—but no response is always a safe option.

Tweeting on the fly can easily backfire. Remember to…

4. Be timely, but tweet in good taste

Ever thought of a clever way to borrow a news headline? Okay, now how many times have you rethought that idea and realized it was completely inappropriate?

If you answered “several times,” you’re already on the right track. You can’t always post the first idea that comes to your head, especially when you’re dealing with news that can be sensitive to certain audience members.

Take American Apparel and Gap, for example. These two clothing brands decided to push out boneheaded responses to Hurricane Sandy last year, exploiting the storm for a promotion and a link to their website, respectively. The online response was massive, destroying social media credibility that took years to earn.

We’re human, of course. We make mistakes. When you do, you’ll need a game plan.

5. Remove, but don’t ignore

All right, so you made a fatal error. You need damage control and you need it fast if you want to save your job.

A damage control plan is absolutely essential—and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The worst possible response to a social media mistake is to ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen, or go on the defensive. Chances are someone got a screenshot. Even if they didn’t, it’s hard to refute a pissed-off crowd. Worse yet, if you don’t see it their way, you risk doing even more damage by confronting them.

Chick-Fil-A decided to dig itself into a deeper hole after coming out against gay marriage last year. From a business perspective, the announcement may or may not have been questionable. But the brand’s handling of the situation over social media was clearly wrong.

Thousands of users took to the Chick-Fil-A Facebook page to post their disapproval. Instead of handling the criticism gracefully, the organization (allegedly) decided to create fake Facebook accounts to support the company’s position and criticize these posters. As you can imagine, the sham was discovered quickly, backfiring in a big way.

How do you deal with a crisis?

Have you ever found yourself up against a social media wall? Tell us in the comments how you dealt with your crisis.

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