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For organisation and brand using social media there is a risk to your reputation if a crisis occurs. That crisis could start on social media or in some cases start offline but end up on social media. 

We're consistently seeing examples of this playing out in the media and while organisations should take notice of these situations and respect the power of social media, there are steps that can be taken to protect brands in the event of a crisis. In today's blog we're going to look at what might constitute a social media crisis, and our six tips to minimise potential damage to your reputation. 

What is a social media crisis?

A social media crisis is an online post or piece of content published on social media that risks having a negative impact on your organisation’s reputation. A social media crisis may also negatively affect a brand’s ROI. A social media crisis often involves strong, negative emotions that are relatable. 

What constitutes a crisis on social media?

You can't put a plan in place if you don't know what the potential threat is that you're preparing for. Of course, a crisis can look like lots of different things to different organisations but we've listed some of the common culprits to get you started in thinking about the risks of social media:

  • Malicious posting by a colleague - disgruntled employees who still have access to your organisation's accounts
  • Hacking of your organisation's social media accounts
  • "Oops, that wasn’t my personal account" - creating inappropriate content by mistake
  • Customer service failures - backlash over poor social media customer service
  • Embarrassment by association - celebrity or influencer endorsements gone wrong
  • Legal risks including breaches of the GDPR, failure to indicate paid promotions, and breaches of the Financial Conduct Authority guidelines

To find out more about these potential risks - head over to our blog about the 8 common social media risks for organisations. 

So what do you do if your organisation experiences a social media crisis? To help you to plan for taking action in these situations, we've detailed our six tips to help you protect your reputation from a potential social media crisis:

How to protect your organisation during a social media crisis

1. Establish an escalation policy

Identifying the early signs of a crisis is the greatest step in preventing a full-scale incident (this works if it is within your control e.g. a planned disruption in service delivery. If the situation is out of your control then you will need to put a crisis management plan into action). Establish key identifiers that indicate the time sensitivity and urgency of messages and comments received, as well as when to escalate the situation to a more senior member of the team. This process will help create a benchmark for your teams to react quickly and tackle a potential crisis proactively!

2. Identify who's responsible for social media

Having a clear understanding within the organisation of the chain of command with regards to the social media response is key when in the midst of a crisis. Establish who needs to be involved in crafting an appropriate response (the worst response is silence) and who has the final sign-off for any content posted.

3. Use social media management software

Social media management software can enable you to have clear oversight of multiple social media users, multiple accounts across multiple locations. The ability to manage outbound content through moderation can protect your organisation from potential insider threats. Utilising social media listening tools will support you in actively listening in to conversations going on outside of your existing fans and followers. Listening for specific keywords and phrases is critical in identifying potential problems before they reach scale. For example, setting up buzz searches for your local area and ‘traffic’ ‘collision’ ‘accident’ could help you to identify road traffic accidents ready to respond appropriately.

4. Gain control of your social media accounts

Social media no longer sits just within the marketing department but across entire organisations. This does however increase the level of risk in the event of a crisis. Having the ability to restrict the number of users who are posting content to a trusted few experienced communications professionals will help to limit the risk of further agitating the crisis scenario. In addition to restricting the numbers of users posting out content, having the ability to cease all pre-scheduled content will prevent any embarrassment or potentially insensitive content from being posted at a delicate time.

5. Social media training

It's estimated that 70% of the UK workforce are in customer facing roles which means more employees than ever before potentially engaging on social media as a representative of your enterprise. Yet 1 in 3 are not equipped with the right skills to manage it, which could be crisis in the waiting. Ensuring your team is up to speed with social media customer service knowledge and best practice is a no-brainer in helping prevent a potential crisis caused by an employee accidentally (or maliciously) posting inappropriate content.

But, in case it does happen…

6. Social media crisis debrief

In the unfortunate event that your organisation does get caught up in a social media crisis, and your crisis communication plan is simply to have all hands on deck to respond, ensure that you take the time to debrief as a team. Evaluate what worked well and most importantly what didn’t, as this can form the basis for your crisis communications plan and ensure that you are protected in the future.

Putting these six steps in place will go a long way in protecting your organisation from a social media crisis. If you would like advice on how to develop a crisis communications plan for social media, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of Enterprise Social Media Specialists, to discus and explore how we can help you stay protected and in control.

Interested to learn more? Check out this video introduction to social media crisis management: 

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