How to put together a crisis plan for social media

A crisis always hits when we least expect it and not always prepared. For a business, even a small crisis can have a huge impact in a very short period of time so getting on top of the crisis early is crucial. Small business or large business, no one needs the impact of negative reviews or comments being spread like wild fire across the internet.

The worst time to prepare for a crisis is in the middle of a crisis. Preparing in advance with a crisis management plan, using social media to your advantage will minimise the impact on your brand. Here’s how:

Recognising a crisis

Understanding the magnitude and type of crisis can help identify the necessary steps needed to handle the crisis. In order to recognise a crisis forming you need to keep an eye on your social media profiles at all times. Either through regular checks, through notifications or Google Alerts. This way you will be alerted early on to any undesirable comments associated with your brand and can jump on board turning it around. Monitor terms such as:

  • Your company name
  • Your competition
  • Keywords associated with your company
  • Director/manager/employees
  • Your social handles
  • Any campaign hashtags

Recognise the level of crisis

Before panic sets in it is necessary to identify how extreme a crisis is. The odd negative mention over a few hours could require nothing more than monitoring, where as a sudden increase in volume and frequency could require action. Create thresholds in which to implement different actions, looking at the level of negative mentions and the time frame in which they occur.

Example thresholds are:

  • Less than five negative mentions an hour – continuous monitoring
  • Five to ten mentions an hour – Start soft messaging those making direct complaints
  • More than ten mentions an hour – Initiate your crisis management plan

Remember, these thresholds will look different for every business.

Compile the plan

Once you know your thresholds, and are monitoring your mentions on social media you can start to compile a plan in order to handle anything that arises. Start with steps to identify a crisis, and the level of threat to your brand’s image. Next determine who (if there is more than one employee) will take responsibility for which actions of the plan.

Make sure that responses are sent out as quickly as possible in order to get on top of the crisis. Plan to have an acknowledge of the issue out across all platforms within an hour of the situation arising, and then regular updates planned – even if there is nothing new to report, some news is better than no news.

British Airways’ CEO used video on their Twitter profile to address the IT outage and keep their customers informed.

Create a template of responses that can be modified to fit numerous situations, both for public acknowledgement and to interact more closely, dealing with complaints. Choose an appropriate hashtag to keep all mentions and responses linked, this can be a generic hashtag for all crises or one specifically linked to the issue at hand.  Even better is to have a webpage that all information can be posted to once a crisis arises. The menu option for the webpage can be hidden from your main menu until needed, and advertised throughout social media when needed.

The benefit of having a page on your website is that you can control the content being posted and it reassures customers that the information they are receiving is from the organisation itself, not just the social media team or agency.

Keep calm and consistent with your messages and responses to mentions even once the crisis has been resolved. It is difficult to assess the success of a plan without executing, so once the crisis is resolved take the time to analyse. Look at what worked, what didn’t work, the time it took to complete each step and update your plan accordingly.

Although no one likes hearing negative mentions regarding their business, there is no guarantee it won’t happen. Having a plan in place to placate the angry voices and do so in a smooth, organised manner will turn those negative mentions around for you and reduce the amount of trust lost. Even if you haven’t had a crisis moment yet, put a plan in place and know you are prepared for anything and everything.

Download this crisis plan template to get you started on writing your own plan.