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5 Things You Must Have in Your Social Media Crisis Plan

Do you have a social media crisis plan? Most brands don’t - and that’s not a good thing.

It was once said that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. That’s true also of social media. Sometimes things get out of your control. Sometimes things can get a bit ugly. Posts meant to be internal go public, and others may be read as unintentionally insensitive or misleading. Most often, a real-life brand image crisis carries over onto social media, where it can catch and spread quickly.

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Tesla can make electric cars and cutting-edge rocket technology, but they forgot to follow two-factor authentication procedures for Twitter. Luckily, they escaped without much PR damage, but examples to the contrary are far too common. The recent past is littered with brands that suffered very real damages from hacks and leaks.

So when a crisis happens to your brand (and there’s a good chance one eventually will!), you need to know how to react. A mishandled crisis can destroy your reputation, and can even end up circulating in the news.

Remember: a social media manager is also a reputation manager.


You need to make sure you have a workable plan ready for dealing with crisis situations. As social marketing and management experts (and from being on the wrong side of a few crises ourselves), we’ve prepared 4 essential steps to getting a social media crisis under control.



1. Detect

Before you can even begin to work on an issue, you have to know that there is an issue in the first place. To effectively manage your social media presence, you have to be tuned into the chatter surrounding your brand. That means using an enterprise tool like Socialbakers Builder to monitor all mentions of, and comments including your brand. If you see a negative comment or a complaint posted to one of your profile pages (and especially if it has the potential to go viral), or multiple comments about the same issue, start working on it immediately.

2. Identify

Identify what led to the problem. Who was involved? What happened and when did it happen? Once you have a clear and objective view on the problem, it’s time to look into steps to fix it.

Make sure that you not only have control of the situation, but that each team in your organization is completely synched from the top, down, on how to deal with the situation and potential future crises like it.

3. Consider (The Four T’s)

Tone – What should be the tone of your response? Make sure that it aligns both with your company’s tone in general, but also with the appropriate tone demanded by the situation. If you can be lighthearted about the incident, be lighthearted. If it’s a serious issue, communicate in a serious tone.

Timeliness – How long ago did the incident happen? Make sure you’re reacting as quickly as you can while still making sure not to trip over your own feet in an effort to correct your mistake. This is why it’s so important to be efficient in how you take apart the problem and prepare your communication strategy.

Thoroughness – What networks are you covering? This isn’t like posting content; you don’t need to be everywhere, drawing even more attention to a problem you’d like to have people accept and move past. Make sure to consider how the story is spreading, and address it in the same way.

Transparency – In almost every situation, transparency is best. That means not only should your response acknowledge any mistake your brand made, but it also should show that you are trying to deal with it an honest way. This means openly broadcasting all of the steps that you are taking to fix it and make sure it doesn’t

4. Respond

Now it’s time to respond. Get your social media posts ready on all appropriate channels, then send them out. Be prepared to continually deal with further feedback – also, alert your PR team to your communications strategy so that news reports only include the official positioning. It is highly useful to be using a CMS tool here, to make sure that you are controlling the conversation to the fullest extent.

Once you’ve developed a plan, make sure to circulate it within your organization. Everyone in marketing, PR, and sales should read it. You could even try running scenarios with your team, in order to test your preparation. With a good crisis plan in place, and the proper training, you can safely avoid any potential social media catastrophe.


For keynotes and workshops on this and other major issues in social media marketing today, get your ticket to Socialbakers Engage 2015 in Prague. It’s next week and we’re almost out of spots!

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  • Arthur Duhamel

    The question this conjures up is: 'How good are you at social media marketing and management if you need a crisis plan?" Crisis plans in PR comes about as a result of PR professionals having control of a message up until the point they click the SEND button on an email. This does not apply to social media as you the professional controls what happens to the message throughout. YOU ARE THE PUBLISHER. So it therefore stands to reason that if you KNOW what you are doing, crisis management will not b necessary since engagement happens throughout the social media management process.

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