12 Steps to Ready Your Social Media Crisis Management Plan
Do you have a social media crisis management plan for customer crisis or perhaps just normal customer engagement? It is just logical that you engage with all sorts of customers, and no matter how good you are, you need to have a social media response plan. How well you deal with these customers will determine whether you are dealing with a crisis or a non-issue.
Can you remember an instance where your business was not prepared for a social media incident? As a result, what action did you take first? Please help us by sharing your story.
Social media has come a long way since then as have the strategies, tactics, methods, and power associated with social media.
In reality, a successful social media marketing campaign is multi-dimensional. Actually, it’s kind of complicated. Ask any social media marketer “How do you do social media marketing?” and you’re likely to get the “Um, where do I start?” look.
There are a lot of elements to address and minute details to cover. Often, the most difficult stage is the initial one, when you’re trying to gain traction and pick up momentum.
One of the benefits of social media is undoubtedly its immediacy and its timeliness. It gives the businesses a better way to be present with their audience in almost any situation, sharing continuous information from wherever they are. It also is an awesome means of ongoing discussions that can’t always be limited to a contained period.
It is this very reason that social media is one of the most widely-used ways that brands connect with their audiences, particularly in times of crisis. When hit by complications; difficulties, and perhaps even blind panic, brands need a way to cut through the confusion and reach out to their customers. Social media permits taking decisive responsibility for the matter at hand and laying out a clear plan of action.
So it is wise to prepare a response plan how you would respond before you receive any such comments. Note that part of the response plan requires action before receiving negative comments from customers.
Here are the key elements of a response plan we recommend to our clients:
Humanize the brand
Always create a personality through laughter and having fun in the workplace. Be able to laugh at yourself. Wear your enthusiasm and your passion at all times.
Keep your staff informed
Provide all information to your staff. Keep everyone in the loop and up to speed.
Build a community
Build followers of passionate defenders for your brand. Let them defend you with their views.
Related post: Social Media Campaigns to Stimulate Learning
Crisis management plan … steer the conversation
In times of negativity, social media will often be the first place customers head to – not just for information, but to give their insight and perhaps even bash your brand in the process.
Don’t let the conversation get out of control – decide on an appropriate hashtag for the events to follow and use this as a symbol across all your platforms for all trustworthy, reliable and honest information surrounding the crisis. Doing this from the very beginning will not only inhibit people from devising their illegitimate hashtags which can confuse customers. It will ensure your brand is the leading, go-to source of information for everything to do with the crisis.
Crisis management plan steps … listen and accept
Avoid censoring at all costs. Listen carefully and try to understand your customers’ viewpoints.
Fix the problem
Fix problems if there is one. Acknowledge the issue and communicate your solution.
Timing is everything
Social media is all about timing. Waste no time diving into the conversation the moment a crisis strikes, and silence should NOT be an option. The sooner you can prove to customers that you are present and dedicated to addressing an issue; you will earn your customers’ trust.
If possible, making customers aware of a service disruption or impending blunder before it has even happened is highly advised. Not only will this show transparency and garner more respect for your brand; it will also give you a chance to offer instructions to customers and allow them to make appropriate preparations for the storm.
Have a consistent response platform
It is advisable that brands limit the number of places that people feel they need to look to find dedicated information regarding a crisis. Otherwise, information can become scattered and misinterpreted; and focus can be lost.
Choose one platform to which all of the detailed information will be posted – whether it is a specific blog or RSS feed built for the purpose, or your most affluent social platform like Twitter or Tumblr. Use your other platforms to direct the flow of user traffic towards your primary source.
Build a call to action
If there’s one thing that customers hate more than a service crisis, it’s being left hanging with no instruction or advice on what to do next. It doesn’t matter that you can’t provide an explanation for the crisis just yet – people don’t like to be kept waiting with time on their hands, so it’s important to give explicit calls to action in your updates.
These can be as simple as directing customers towards external sources of advice, or giving practical tips on what they could do to minimize the impact of the emergency.
Create an opportunity
Try to turn the problem into an opportunity. Don’t neglect to spend time finding the opportunity from your adversity … it often will not jump out at you, will it?
Keep your cool
There will indeed be cases where illegitimate feeds of information will somehow seep into the airwaves, giving false information or unsourced explanations surrounding the crisis.
While it’s tempting to react aggressively towards these feeds by attempts to censor the information or threaten legal action, it is advisable that you don’t. Doing so could further chink the integrity of your brand and lead users to think you have something to hide.
Know when to back away
If it is a lose-lose situation and you see you are not making headway, be prepared to walk away. When is the issue no longer valid? Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes not … but monitor closely for a while.
The bottom line
If you’ve correctly taken charge of the conversation with an appropriate hashtag as mentioned earlier, all other illegitimate information should just be left to lie. If it is necessary, warn your audience against such sources and remind them that for all official updates on the matter, you’re the one to turn to.
All that’s left then is to deliver a trustworthy, responsible and genuinely useful stream of updates that your customers can truly depend on.
Remember that your customers are not always right, but they always have the right to choose. And when they do, they will tell their friends about their experiences and their choices.
Please share one of your experiences with negative on-line customers. Any questions or comments to add?
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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