You’re on social media for one reason and that’s to get your message out to as many people as possible. Social media is all about amplification. Those that are able to attract the most amount of eyeballs to their posts, videos, images, etc are considered to be the mavericks of their field.
That’s because social media can be a tough nut to track, particularly for businesses. Maintaining a presence across all of the different networks can be difficult and time consuming. That’s why brands often try to go above and beyond in their efforts to increase their organic reach.
Sometimes, that can end up doing more harm than good. A social media crisis is always best avoided. It has the potential to permanently harm the reputation of a brand and turn customers away forever.
How you might find yourself in a social media crisis
There’s a lot that could go very wrong very quickly on social media. Whether it’s an insensitive image or comment, an ill-timed post that ends up being offensive or the dreaded mix-up between personal and brand accounts by your account manager, a social media crisis can seemingly come out of nowhere.
These things then take on a life of their own. As much as the power of amplification that social media provides can be good for business, the same power can turn out to be a thorn in your side during such times of crisis.
In mere hours, there may be a full blown organic hashtag campaign against your brand just because of a social media faux pas. The viral organic reach that something like this generates will likely dent the reputation of your brand significantly.
Reduce your risk by implementing a social media policy
There’s a simple step that brands can take to greatly limit their risk of a crisis. Never run your brand accounts without a crystal clear social media policy in place first. Otherwise, you and your team will quite literally be flying blind.
A social media policy ensures that the people authorized to post using company accounts know exactly what they’re supposed to say, how they are to interact with followers and what they need to steer clear of.
The policy should also contain guidelines about confidentiality, privacy and copyright. Most importantly, brand voice guidelines will ensure that all account managers know exactly what tone the company wants to keep on social media.
Despite this protection in place if you still find yourself in the midst of a social media crisis, these are the steps to be followed in order to salvage your brand’s reputation.
How brands can recover from a social media crisis
1. Time and speed are of the essence
The best way to recover from a social media crisis is to react quickly. Both time and speed are of the essence when trying to control the damage. If an offending or controversial post has gone online, it should be taken down immediately.
Leaving it up for longer is only going to cause more damage. The longer it stays up the more chances that it will end up being shared far and wide. Now this doesn’t mean just to quietly delete the offending post and pretend that this never happened.
That strategy will do more harm than good. It’s important to acknowledge and make amends. However, it’s always important to remove whatever the social media mistake was made as soon as possible.
2. Honesty is the best policy
Don’t try to dig yourself out of the hole by digging an even bigger one. Trying to shift the blame or making an excuse for what happened is not going to rectify the situation.
Even if the offending post was deleted in mere seconds after it went up, if you have a big enough following, chances are somebody will have seen it, taken a screenshot and shared it before you even had the chance to react.
Never pretend that nothing happened or what did wasn’t all that important. Managing a social media faux pas requires taking ownership of the mistake. Provide an honest explanation to your followers about what happened and what steps have now been taken to ensure something like that doesn’t happen again.
3. Pause all campaigns and review
When there appears to be a potential crisis, it’s always best to pull the plug on any campaigns and schedule posts until you know exactly what happened.
If your social media accounts are operating as if nothing happened that will give off the perception that the brand just doesn’t care or happens to be very insensitive. That will further negatively impact its reputation.
Pausing all campaigns and reviewing the material that’s supposed to go live later limits the risk of the additional content adding fuel to the fire.
4. Engage with followers but don’t argue
Once the initial statement has been put out explaining what happened, chances are that your followers will have questions. They would want to know more about the situation and perhaps learn more about the steps you have taken to prevent such mistakes from being made again.
It’s important to engage with your followers after a social media crisis. This helps regain their trust that may have been lost during the crisis. They will recognize that the brand shows remorse over what happened.
When engaging with followers, try to be as concise as possible. Offer information that they require but don’t get sucked into arguments or appear to justify the offending actions.
5. Conduct an audit of your social media practices
A social media faux pas necessitates an audit of your social media practices. Think of it as a post-mortem of the incident. Work with the relevant teams internally to figure out what went wrong.
Speak to the people who were responsible and also take insight from those who have been dealing with the fallout. After a thorough assessment, make changes to the social media practices to limit the possibility of the incident repeating.
Share the results of the audit and the steps to be taken going forward with your followers. This way they’ll know that the brand is being responsible and taking ownership for its mistakes.
Not all social media crises are fatal if you’re quick to respond
Never think that it’s impossible to come back from a social media faux pas. Unless there has been an unthinkable mistake, the chances of recovering from a crisis like this are actually quite good.
The followers just need to see that the brand has learned from its mistakes and that it’s willing to do a better job preventing such incidents from taking place in the future. Just be quick and decisive when tackling such a controversy.
Blamah is the founder of Web Collaborative, a full-service creative agency. He is an established marketing strategist and consultant. He is also a graduate of Bucknell University and native of Chester County, PA with extensive experience in business development and brand management.
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