6 ways to control a social media crisis

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Be genuine, straightforward and a positive force of good

After addressing the public and giving them the facts, it's crucial to show customers what you plan on doing to address the crisis. Showing genuine concern is very important here. Don't underestimate the intelligence or perception of consumers as they will see through any empty promises coming from your company. The company should broadly outline steps it will take to fix the problem and give customers a more concrete answer than, "we're handling it."

Be a human

A company's leader taking the time to address the public in a situation where emotions are high can pay dividends in the consumers' mindsets toward the company. This is a thoughtful gesture that shows consumers the company's genuine attitude and gives them more reason to believe the crisis isn't taken lightly by the executive team. Stopping bots that could inadvertently produce further controversy could save companies any added embarrassment as well as force the company to show consumers a more human, personal side. In an iMedia article, Michael Estrin brought up the example of the NRA using a bot that tweeted "Good morning, shooters! Happy Friday! Weekend plans?" immediately following the shooting in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater. Not only are instances like this incredibly insensitive, but they could demonstrate to consumers that your company does not have much dedicated, personal presence in social media.

Let power users emerge

If Facebook or Twitter becomes an avenue for customers to share their opinions, set some basic ground rules regarding profanity and spamming and leave some room for power users to come to your company's defense. Responding to every comment or tweet would be implausible and unnecessary thanks to these power users. Kraft Foods, the brand behind the Oreo Cookie, came under fire for releasing a rainbow stuffed cookie for Gay Pride month. Those who felt strongly against the issue made their displeasure known on Kraft Foods' Facebook page. Then, the company's own fans on Facebook suppressed the crisis by defending the company there. The amount of loyal fans coming to a company's defense could also serve as a gauge for the success of the company's marketing strategy.

Redirect conversation

Directing consumers with angry comments or complaints about your company to a lesser trafficked area (on or offline) can save you from getting more negative attention in social. Jay Baer wrote about this -- he refers to this practice as building "a pressure relief valve." He cites Penn State as doing a good job of redirecting individuals to vent on a Facebook status post during the height of the Jerry Sandusky trial. With the creation of this Facebook status, Penn State was able to have some degree of control over spread of negative attention.

Crisis management on social media is never on a company's forward-looking list of things to do. However, if handled with speed and a genuine attitude towards righting the wrongs, LeWinter's points can prove the difference between the eruption of a social media crisis burying a company or not.

Mark Naples is the managing partner of WIT Strategy.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Illustration of a Motorized policeman on a street corner" image via Shutterstock.


Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis February 19, 2013 at 2:25 PM

I think transparency is key to handling a social media crisis. Let people know what is going on and how you actually handling the situation. The more upfront you are the less it looks like you're trying to pull a fast one on your audience.