Social media is unpredictable, explosive and often outpaces time itself. Social media is like a megaphone. It can broadcast the good, and it can turn whispers of discontent into yells that millions can hear.
No organization is immune to a social media meltdown, even if that organization lacks a presence on social networks. Are you prepared to manage a social media meltdown?
Most organizations do not have social media integrated into their crisis communications plans. And while crisis communications plans are seen as very beneficial, many organizations lack one. Organizations with plans in place recover faster than those without. Every organization needs digital integrated into its crisis plan.
While basic crisis communications applies to social media, you need to be aware of some conditions that are specific to social media and be prepared to address them.
1. Criticism: Do not censor criticism on your blog, Facebook account or YouTube channel unless it violates your stated community guidelines. This is a difficult concept for organizations to get accustomed to in the age of social media. Removing the offending comments may lead to more, harsher comments.
2. Tone: Social media is not the space for “corporate” tone. When responding, be personal, polite and professional. Never respond in a dismissive or impolite manner. It will only add fuel to the fire.
3. Order: Many organizations are afraid to stand up for themselves on social. It’s OK to bring order to the organization’s online space, which will allow for concerns to be addressed.
4. Listen: Listen to and try to understand what the negative commenter wants. Respond directly to the person, when possible. Respond publicly and have an open conversation or acknowledge the concern and then take it offline. How an organization handles a particular situation depends on the factors involved.
5. Channel: Different social media channels have unique tones because they target different audiences. Each channel needs to say the same thing, but they say it differently. What works in a media release, on a website or in a brochure will not necessarily work on Twitter or Facebook.
6. Update: Websites and social media platforms need to be updated 24/7. During a crisis, people will be expecting current information. They will be expecting interaction on social media platforms.
In 2014, US Airways experienced one of the most bizarre social media meltdowns in memory. The situation originated as a routine exchange between a passenger disgruntled over a delay and the social media customer service team. Everything was standard until the person tweeting for US Airways responded to the discussion and attached a photo. The photo was pornographic. US Airways managed the situation well by responding within an hour, deleting the offensive tweet and apologizing humbly.
This article was adapted from PR News’ Book of Crisis Management, Vol 8. For more information go to: http://www.prnewsonline.com/crisis-management-guidebook-vol8
This article originally appeared in the November 2, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.