During the digital age, social media can either make or break your brand. Word-of-mouth spreads faster than ever as customers have the power to share and create content with the click of a button. No matter what industry you are in, relationship management plays a key role in both your brand’s and company’s success. A healthy relationship with your customers is critical because at the end of the day, your brand is what your customers say it is. Knowing what to do when your brand hits the fan is important for salvaging your company’s reputation and success.
What is a Social Media Crisis?
A social media crisis can be defined by three main criteria – information imbalance, material impact, and overwhelming negativity. When there is information imbalance, a company either knows less than the public on a situation, or just as much. This is important because it creates a power imbalance where customers know more, and can take control of the situation – they decide the fate of your brand.
Material impact refers to the scope and size of the issue. If it is something that will have a material impact on the company – financial, company image, and reputation – then it is considered a material impact. Overwhelming negativity can also affect your brand. It can cause a “me-too bandwagon” effect where customers share or agree with similar negative experiences. This can cause potential clients to choose another brand over yours, or cause the issue to grow based on common disagreement.
What to do when crisis strikes
Your first response, and any response to a social media crisis, is the most important. Unhappy customers will be waiting for it, they will have something to say about it, and they will share it. Below are a few tips to help you prepare for, or respond to, a social media crisis:
- Acknowledge the situation – even if you do not have any answers, it is best to acknowledge that you are aware of the situation. Being transparent is the most important aspect of reputation management.
- Keep employees educated – each employee is a spokesperson for the company and the public will find them, or already knows them. Be sure to keep employees as knowledgeable as the public.
- Respond with details – Responding with as much detail as possible will help put defensive customers at ease. It lets them know that you are aware of everything that has happened, and it helps put you in a position of power. It is important that you respond on the social platform where the crisis first started. Follow up on other platforms where the issue may have spread.
- Know when to take things offline – some customers will not be satisfied with any response. If possible, provide a phone number or email address in a private message to help remedy the situation.
- Don’t ignore or delete – Ignoring or deleting customers’ negative comments or deleting your social pages can ultimately destroy your brand. Deleting your pages makes customers angrier and spreads negative commentary past your page - In most cases customers will post on your page or “@” you, keeping you in the know of what’s being said and providing you with a pulse on the situation. Without your social media pages, you no longer have an idea of what is being said about your brand, or where it is being said. You also can no longer provide accurate information if incorrect information is posted or try to turn feelings around by answering concerns and slowing down negative commentary.
- Respond ASAP – your response should come sooner rather than later; however, it should not be rushed, defensive, or deny what has happened. If the situation is your fault, you need to express that you’re sorry for your actions. Customers will want and expect a sincere apology, as well as future steps to avoid or currently address the issue.
GSM and Crisis Management
The actions you take in response to a crisis are important and require attention to detail. All eyes will be on you, so you need to make sure your communication plan and response is bulletproof. GSM has the tools necessary to help your business when a social media crisis arises. Our company can work with you and/or your PR firm to spread appropriate response content across multiple channels such as your social networks, mail, email, and phone calls. Our solutions work together to provide a seamless message and creative across all channels ensuring your message is clear and reaches the majority.
GSM can work with you to create a communication plan that best suits the size and scope of your social media crisis. Using multiple channels helps reinforce your message and increases its reach. You need to reach out to your most loyal and active customers first – they are your steady source of revenue, your brand advocates, and they could be the most affected or offended by the situation. These customers have the highest expectations and they will be the most interested in your response. Next, communicate to your other customer sets. You will need to follow up with all customers after the first initial communication. Healing your brand and reputation is a process, not a one-step solution.