Social media is a large part of our worlds, privately and as bloggers. But even though most of the time it is a great way to expand your network and engage more people around your blog, sometimes it can turn out to be more than what we bargained for. Crisis happens in no time, and when you least expect it. You can never be ready for one, and as they always happen late on a Friday night, first thing on Mondays, or during lunch breaks in the middle of the week, they can often go unnoticed till the damage is already done.
There are tons of examples among celebrities and brands that demonstrate the potential dangers of social media. The screenshot below is from a great infographic from MDG Advertising that takes a look at some memorable social blunders. You can certainly learn a thing or two from them.
In case you find yourself in the middle of a social media crisis, here’s how to handle it:
#1 Take Social Media Seriously
In one older post we discussed content as one of the 3 pillars of SEO; links are the second, and social media is the third. 5-6 years ago you could’ve maybe said ‘it is just another fad’, but today Twitter, Facebook, Instagram are reality –sometimes even more real than what is actually happening, but that’s a completely different extreme.
Real people use these social sites to communicate with one another constantly. Some of them are the blog visitors and potential customers you target. If you are serious about your blogging business you need to recognize the importance of social media in today’s world, and dedicate the time and energy it deserves.
#2 Have a Plan in Place
When it comes to social media it’s always wiser to think ahead and prepare. You never know what kind of disaster will strike, so develop a crisis communication plan that details tone, logistics, who does when, where and what – who responds out of your office hours, can this person offer a coupon, money back, or additional service in case of crisis without your direct permission. Print out the plan and make sure everyone understands it and stands behind it, if you have a team of people working on your blog.
#3 Respond Fast! Never Ignore a Crisis
The worst thing you can do when a crisis happens is to remain silent and hope the problem will disappear. Because it won’t, – you only risk making even bigger drama. The longer you wait to respond, the more it appears to people that you are trying to “white-wash” the complaint. Keep in mind that the first 24 hours are crucial and act quickly and responsibly.
#4 Monitor All Social Channels
Another thing to remember about social media crises is that they can happen on any social platform (not just the ones you monitor), and then ripple out onto another, onto blogs, and depending on the size, potentially end in mainstream media. You are maybe on a lookout on Twitter, Google+, or Pinterest, but your worst nightmare might be just starting with a YouTube video.
Before you start panicking, there are tools you can use to monitor the social mentions of your name, blog or brand. The most simple strategy however (and often the most effective) is setting separate Google Alerts to get email updates whenever you get mentioned, or you can try Social Mention to search out blogs, microblogs, videos, bookmarks and other social media, and Topsy to keep an eye on tweets.
#5 Be Honest and Engage in a Meaningful Way
Think who’s behind the crisis, who is leaving those bad comments, – these are all real people just like you. If you listen carefully and approach them with honesty, most will respect that, and some may even become your biggest supporters. Be prepared for an actual conversation with these people, engage them on the things they are concerned about.
If it’s your fault, apologize. Everyone makes mistakes – actually, people who work and give their best can make mistakes and learn from them; those who are not trying cannot make mistakes. Remember that and be proud even when you are wrong.
#6 Explain How You Act on Complaints
Finally, you want to demonstrate that you are acting on the complaints, and in addition changing your working practices to ensure such problems won’t happen again. Sometimes people just want to know that there is someone to listen to the issues they want to point out, and seeing that you are taking their suggestions seriously will make them more than satisfied.
Also, you don’t want your detractors to get defensive – that will make the social media crisis explode. Never tell someone his or her feelings, or judgment of the situation, are wrong. No one wants to hear that. Don’t argue and don’t delete comments.
Have you ever been in a situation to have to deal with a social media crisis? What tips can you share? What did you do?