5 Tips for Handling a Business Crisis on Social Media

By Debra Eckerling 

What do you do when your business or brand is receiving unwanted media attention? Whether you’re dealing with a disgruntled customer or former employee, product or company issue, or celeb scandal (Hello, Paula Deen), social media will play a prominent role in damage control.

Here are 5 things your business can do before – or during – a crisis to curtail backlash and land on your feet.

1. Be prepared.

“Taking a proactive approach will provide with you time and ability to create your entire plan without paying agencies and employees overtime for creating a plan when it’s too late,” says Flynn Zaiger, CEO, Online Optimism. “Ensure the plan also covers everything (social media networks you’re on, social media networks you’re not on, search engine optimization, and local reviews) where users can find your services. Taking a proactive approach will allow you to spend a fraction of the costs of a reactive approach for reputation management.”

2. Monitor your brand.

“All companies should know how to monitor the damage in real time to clean it up,” says Digital Marketing and Social Media Strategist Brad Hines, BradfordHines.com. “At a minimum, all companies should in the wake of a PR problem set up a Google Alert (Google.com/alerts), use Skweal, and monitor Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, and G+ for what people are saying.”

3. Don’t ignore it.

“Often times, the way a company deals with a business issue is even more important than the business issue itself,” explains David Neuman, Manager of Social Media & Mobile Services at Prime Visibility.

“The worst thing a company can do is completely ignore the situation or provide a canned response that doesn’t deal with the issue head on. … Address the situation immediately. Inform your social media followers and likes that you understand the issue and you’re taking steps to repair the situation. You are not going to please everyone, but, by keeping an active dialogue with your customers across social media, you can effectively turn a negative situation into a positive one.”

4. Have a single company message and bring your employees up to speed.

“Aggregate brand-safe, shareable content in a single location so your employees know exactly what they can and can’t share on social during a business crisis,” says Russ Fradin, CEO and co-founder, Dynamic Signal. “Also, encourage employees to share your brand message with their social communities to generate authentic, positive PR. Empower employees to be brand ambassadors and respond to negative criticism on social with brand-approved messages.”

5. Rise to the challenge.

“During a crisis, marketers and social media managers should be sensitive about tone and content, even if the crisis is under the radar,” explains Brian Heffron, EVP and partner at Boston-based marketing agency, CTP. “A serious problem is compounded when a brand appears tone deaf and uncaring. Brands should continue to use social channels to communicate important information and respond to customers, but immediately suspend any light-hearted content or promotional posts.”

Heffron adds, “If executed properly, social media can be instrumental in fighting through a business crisis. But done poorly, it will only add fuel to an already dangerous fire that threatens your brand.”

No one plans to have their brand challenged in the court of opinion. But in the age of social media, it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

Image by Gow27.