Does your small business have a response plan when it comes to a social media crisis? These three trigger points can lead to this surprisingly common occurrence:
- Information irregularity: This happens when the business owner knows nothing more than what the general public knows. This could be the result of a natural disaster or some other form of accident.
- Atypical criticisms: Like it or not, there will always be negative comments to handle. To be considered the second sign of a social media crisis, the criticisms need to come from an entirely different direction with the ability to impact the company. Unfortunately, you may inadvertently set this into motion with an inappropriate Tweet or image that goes viral.
- Lastly, anything that has the potential to have a substantial impact on business. When you begin to see a bombardment of negative comments across ALL of your social media profiles you are in a crisis and should work to handle it effectively.
How to Hone Your Skills
Now that you know the signs, you can begin to hone your social media crisis management skills. First things first, remember to talk to your customers or clients. In some cases, you are going to need to share information that makes you a little uncomfortable. Plan to regularly update customers or clients on whatever the issue is, especially if involves life and death.
On the other hand, you should be careful with the information you share. Your small business social media crisis management skills, in this instance, will be partly your gut. Share any information necessary to adequately explain the issue, but keep the details to yourself. Anything that is said can and will be used against you if you speak out-of-turn. You need to manage your social media crisis; don’t allow the public to do it. Once the information is out there, you have no control over how it is used.
As a typical social media crisis starts on social media, it should be handled through social media platforms. That means your first statement should be made using the same social media platform where the crisis started. You should target driving customers to your website where you can effectively manage the crisis. You will also need to utilize other social media platforms. It’s important to have someone monitoring those sites as a preventive measure even when there is no crisis.
Having someone monitoring your website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. is only a start. It doesn’t constitute a plan.
Select a team of people you want in your foxhole with the right small business social media crisis management skills. Meet regularly to determine how, when, where a social media crisis management event could occur. You won’t think of every scenario, but a general guideline will still help you prepare. Build this into your weekly meeting schedule. An hour meeting once a week is less daunting than a four-hour meeting once a month.
Part of your plan should include a “war room”- this is a place where your team members will set up shop until the crisis has been resolved. Make sure this space is technologically sound; otherwise it will be no good in a crisis. If customers feel you are stalling to address a crisis, you will always be battling uphill.. and that’s a battle you will likely lose.
Keep your messages consistent across social media platforms. While your delivery may change from LinkedIn to Twitter or YouTube, what you’re saying should be the same. The pace of your response is equally important to what you say. DON’T waste time fighting over whether to own up to your mistake; just do it. You can throw blame at each other AFTER the crisis has been mitigated.
Acknowledgment, consistency, honesty, and speed are going to see you through any small business social media crisis. Handling it any other way has only one result: failure. Remember, this too shall pass. Until it does you want to control as much of the crisis as you can.