University of Houston Small Business Development Center
By Michelle Loredo
Social media is constantly changing public opinion. Sooner rather than later, you will face a social media crisis. It can be as small as a stream of negative comments to customers boycotting your product. No matter what type of conflict you face, you must be prepared and have a crisis plan ready for any situation.
We have put together tips on crisis management and how to be prepared for the future.
What is a Social Media Crisis
A social media crisis is any negative pattern on social media that can negatively affect your business. If not handled well, the crisis will harm your business’s brand, reputation and lose trust from stakeholders (customers, business relations, etc.).
A crisis can be both preventable and unpreventable.
A preventable crisis includes,
A business knowingly placing people at risk
Taking Inappropriate Actions
Violating Laws and Regulations
An accidental crisis includes a business taking an action that leads to unplanned events,
Technical Mistakes (Electrical Fire, Leak)
Here a few real-life examples,
Burger King UK International Women’s Day Twitter Criticism
Vanessa Hudgens and Insensitive COVID-19 Comment
Be Prepared –Strategy and Response
All small businesses need to have prepared a crisis communication plan that will help you when any conflict arises online. It will help you responds swiftly and help you recover control of the situation. You have to be ready to respond when the crisis occurs and not 21 hours later.
Your plan should include,
Approved Fill-in Press Releases
Approved Messaging for Social Media
Guidelines on How to Maneuver the Situation
Internal Social Media Policy
Outline of Roles for the Different Departments
Social Media Brand Guidelines
Work Internally with Your Team
If you are in a crisis, your team is your best resource and advocate. Work closely with your company to bring the best outcome forward. Provide information and updates on the situation so they can help stop misinformation from spreading. They need to know how to respond to the public and what they are and are not allowed to share.
Things to Avoid
When dealing with a social media crisis, there are some attitudes and responses to avoid when you are in the middle of this process.
When the crisis first erupts, do not take the stance of not responding to the situation. The situation will be worse for you if you give no attention to the problem. Even if you ignore the problem, it will still be there. You need to respond and at the right moment. Have a crisis plan prepared for when the situation arises.
Stop all scheduled social media posts when you are dealing with the crisis. It will come off as rude and insensitive.
When you are engaging with unhappy customers or other stakeholders, do not get angry. Represent your small business in the best light possible. Once you have responded to a negative comment, you do not have to keep responding if they keep spamming with negative comments.
Debrief After the Crisis – What Was Learned and How to Improve
After a crisis, take time to analyze what happened, where things went wrong, and how to use the crisis as an experience in the future. Here a few questions to ask during this process,
How could the team’s reaction could have been better?
How did the team react to the crisis?
Should new guidelines be implemented for employees?
Was the crisis preventable?
What can be changed for future problems?
What can be done to avoid this problem from happening again?
What negatives came from it?
What next steps can your business take to avoid the same type of crisis?
What positive things came from the crisis?
What was done effectively to keep for future crisis?
What was done poorly to improve for the net crisis?
While you are in the debriefing process, keep good records of the situation and feedback on improvement for future social media crises.
The SBDC is Here to Help
The SBDC Network is here to help you and your small business. Our business advising is one-on-one at no cost. The business advisors and specialists can help guide you on being ready for a crisis and other aspects of your business planning.
We have live and recorded webinars that can help you handle online activity and social media.
Here a few examples,
Create Your Digital Marketing Blueprint
Marketing Resource Planning
Focus Groups for Your Small Business
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