Social Media Crisis Contingency Plan


Social media crisis communications is an area of concern for any company, and needs to be a part of any enterprise social media strategy.

Altimeter Group analysed 50 social media crises that have occurred since 2001 and found that those reaching mainstream media have risen steadily through the past decade.

Altimeter found that social media crises originated nearly evenly across five social media platforms: communities, YouTube, blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Furthermore, the top five industries affected by social media crises were: consumer goods, apparel & fashion, restaurants, Internet and retail.

Altimeter Group

Best practices to manage a social media crisis

  • Admit fault and try to turn a negative into a positive as quickly as possible
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry”
  • Build your community (key influencers) before you need it. If you have a community who trusts you already they will come to your aid if people make negative comments
  • Learn as much as you can about the customer when you reach out to respond
  • Your messaging needs to be consistent across all channels
  • Have a plan. Be proactive rather than reactive. Make sure your plan includes specifics of how, when, where and who would communicate around potential issues
  • Keep your plan up-to-date. Every time you have a crisis situation, there will be new lessons learned
  • Have a social media guideline
  • Listen to what your customers are saying. Make sure you have a social media monitoring and listening platform in place before a crisis or major event (good or bad) to ensure you can monitor and filter any comments in a crisis

Plan to action to respond to a social media crises

  1. Assemble a team of trusted people who are willing to help you evaluate the situation and possibly respond
  2. Assess the situation online by harnessing the tools that are publicly available, such as Google Search, Blogs, TechnoratiTwitter Search and Who’s Talkin. Also watch RSS feeds to the online publications of both mainstream and industry media sources
  3. Track these sources constantly to see what and how the situation is developing. Watch the “attacker’s” website or blog as well

To asses the situation you might have to consider:

  • Trend the volume of response and the type of consumer reaction over time: is it growing or waning?, is it supportive or negative?, how is this changing over time?
  • Identify what your target audience’s reaction is, this will determine your response

When responding, be sure to really listen and determine what consumers want, do they just want an apology/acknowledgment or do they demand change?, be sure to address these things in your response.

Important: do not respond too quickly (asses all the situation first), in too much of a ‘corporate’ tone or via a press release posted on your website use the same channel where the crisis is.

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