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The cyber attack last month affecting the NHS saw around 48 hospitals have access to digital records shut down. Many GPs resorted to social media to inform patients that they were unable to access records, and that operations were cancelled and hospitals diverted.

As social media continues to grow as the go-to channel for communicating and engaging with citizens or customers, many organisations are doing so unprepared for some of the associated risks. Below are our six tips to help you protect your reputation on social media against a potential 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 ot 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.

Two social media executives

2. Identify who is responsible for social media

Having a clear understanding within the organisation 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. 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. Gaining control

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. 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:



Learn more about CrowdControlHQ for social media crisis management

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