What Is a Social Media Crisis and How to Avoid It

Most businesses nowadays are using social media. It is an amazing and free tool and it is understandable that the number of companies which are recognising its qualities increases every single day. However, social media could be quite tricky as well, because one of the major problems related to it is the fact it is uncontrollable.

In this post, I will be discussing what a social media crisis is and how it can be foreseen and avoided or in case it hits, how to effectively respond to it.

thAs discussed in my previous blogs, the most important thing for companies is to be prepared for a crisis. If you don’t have a crisis response plan in hand, you’d better go back to work and create one. Of course, as mentioned earlier, social media is uncontrollable and therefore you cannot know where exactly the crisis will come from, but when you have a few possible crisis response scenarios, this should make things easier. The first thing we need to clarify is what a social media crisis is and how to distinguish it from a social media issue. An issue is not an existing problem but the chance there might be one, if not handled well. This could be a negative comment, a rogue tweet, a wrong hashtag etc. On the other hand, a crisis is a much more serious thing. It is an existing problem which is affecting a company’s reputation in a long-term. However, an issue can easily develop into a crisis, so be careful!

An interesting example of a social media crisis that turned out to have positive consequences for the company is the case with Burger King. Some time ago someone hacked Burger King’s Twitter account and changed the name to McDonald’s, tweeting on its behalf. During the time Burger King/McDonald’s account gained 30,000 new followers before they restored the control over it. However, not all social media crises end in such positive way. That’s why companies need to learn how to recognise a crisis and how to avoid it. Here are some useful tips that save lives:

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1) Have a crisis plan in hand- This is the thing I’ve been talking about in all my posts and research papers- “be prepared”- because most crises that affect companies in an extremely negative way are those, companies themselves have not been prepared for. You cannot stop a crisis once it happens, but you can minimise the consequences of it.

2) Train your people- Having social media crisis simulations from time to time doesn’t hurt anyone, it could only help. Knowing what to expect and how to react to is always a good way to start. And remember, even if the crisis happens, don’t panic!

3) Identify potential risk areas- Do your research! Get to know your weaknesses! Work on crisis response messages that could be standardised and applied to most crisis cases. Not so complicated, is it?

If you work on these three simple tips and develop them, come up with your own etc. you will have made the first step in a crisis response cycle. And even if a crisis hits despite your efforts to avoid it, you will be now prepared to handle it. In my next post I will be talking about the next step in the crisis response cycle- how to handle a social media crisis. In the meantime, please feel free to share your opinion on this topic and give any suggestions on how to avoid a social media crisis.

Lidiya Kirilova

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