Managing Crisis in the Social Media Age

by Katie Essner on July 8, 2010

By Katie Essner

When a crisis hits, the best thing a company can do is communicate instantly with its stakeholder audiences.  An effective way to get your message out quickly and efficiently is through social media. Even if you aren’t actively using social media now, knowing how to use websites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to communicate during these times is critical.

Social media is viral by nature and opinions or rumors can spread with lightening speed across the Internet. Make sure your business is prepared to handle the worst with the help of social media.

Here are a few steps your business can take to help manage a crisis with social media.

1. First and foremost, don’t wait to address the crisis. Assess the problem, then act. The longer you wait, the longer it takes to recover.

2. As in any crisis, designate a spokesperson(s) and the means of communication. Be prepared to make a YouTube video response that can be posted on Facebook and Twitter and know who will shoot, edit and post the video. Having a crisis team identified in advance will ensure action when it’s needed the most.

3. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong. Nestle faced a crisis after being attacked on Facebook for using oil found in rainforest trees to manufacture Kit Kat’s. Angry consumers used the Kit Kat logo with the word “killer” on it as their profile pictures to show the company was killing the rainforest. Nestle immediately went on the defensive and attacked the Facebook users who wrote negative comments or displayed their “killer” logo. The company later apologized for its remarks saying it was still learning how to use social media. Remember, it’s not always what you say, but how you say it.

Elmer's Island BP oil spill clean up

Elmer's Island BP oil spill clean up © BP p.l.c.

4. Don’t leave questions unanswered. Undoubtedly people will want to know what’s going on during a crisis.  Even if you don’t have the answers or are not at liberty to give them, assure the public everything that can be done is being done. Creating a stand-by site to use in case of a crisis will demonstrate to the public that you are listening to their concerns.  For example, BP quickly added a section on its website devoted to the Gulf of Mexico spill. The company uploads pictures, videos and maps that track the cleanup process. BP’s Twitter account is also constantly updated to show progress and help answer the public’s questions.

5. Finally, to increase the impact of your plan, include multiple formats, from multiple people in multiple places. When the CDC faced the swine flu epidemic, they used Twitter to communicate, sent text messages, created podcasts, made YouTube videos, continually updated their website and even designed eCards.  The CDC remained calm and set its crisis plan into action.  By all accounts, it was a successful venture.

Although a crisis cannot always be prevented, taking the proper precautions can help you foresee it.  Websites such as Google Alerts, Twilert and Twitter trending searches can help you see what people are saying about your business. If most comments come back negative, you know you have a problem on your hands.

As with any crisis, be prepared for the worst so when it happens you’ll know how to look your best.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

followredrocket July 8, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Social Media is definitely starting to come around it seems like. It is really a great way of getting word out instantly and fast. It’s the new way of communicating. Businesses are picking up on this fast too and realizing the potential of social media. I just wrote a post about social media and its impact with communication in the future. Would be interested in hearing some feedback from you!

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