News | 10th January 2020

How to handle a social media crisis

We all know how influential social media can be when amplifying both good and bad news. Sometimes this can work to our advantage, but at other times, social media can be used to tarnish a brand’s identity which can then affect business. There are ways to handle a social media crisis that will make sure that minimal damage is done, and in some instances, can even have a positive effect on your brand.

Examples of a social media crisis for the hotel industry could be a former employee posting negative reviews on your social channels, any incident that could affect the health and safety of guests, or public incidents involving your employees.

Your crisis communications plan

Creating a crisis communications plan way before you need it will make sure that you can act quickly, efficiently, and confidently should a crisis occur. Here are some things we think you should include in your communication plan:

  1. Consider how you'll internally communicate what is happening
  2. Clarify how you'll determine what is actually a crisis and not simply a disgruntled consumer
  3. Define the approval process for what you'll post on social media
  4. Create pre-approved external messaging so multiple people can respond
  5. Link to your social media policy
  6. Outline who will do what and when (per department)

Once you’ve formulated a plan of action, you’ll also need to ensure all elements are signed off by your key stakeholders.

Respond quickly

The most important thing to bear in mind during a social media crisis is that your followers will be watching you for a response. This means you need to get communications out quickly, making sure you’re sending out the right message. At first instance, it is perfectly acceptable to acknowledge the problem and let people know that more information is on its way. 

Acknowledge, don’t argue

When it comes to responding to a crisis, it’s important to follow these steps:

  • Accept the issue at hand
  • Do not argue with those responding to you
  • Be positive at all times
  • Be careful what you apologise for - you do not want to publicly accept responsibility for something that could later land you in court, but you can show regret for the way people feel or how a situation came about
  • Do not mention names
  • Go into as little detail as possible - you do not need all information to be public knowledge
  • Remember that what you respond will be on the internet forever, even if you delete it people will screenshot it and repost
  • Remain calm

Avoid direct responses

While it is important to acknowledge the crisis at hand, sometimes silence is better than speaking out. Make sure you pause all scheduled posts as you want to show your followers that you are taking the crisis seriously. You also don’t want to publish content that will give people the opportunity to make complaints. It might be tempting to reply to every negative comment you receive, but this could make the situation a lot worse. Keep your communications public and general, and don’t target any specific followers.

Do not delete responses

People will be keeping a close eye on your social media activity during a crisis, and some users will take offence if their posts are deleted, or will feel like something is being covered up. It’s best not to delete any comments from your feed until everything has blown over. An exception to this would be if you receive abusive, inappropriate, or explicit comments, but it’s important that these are ‘hidden’ as opposed to deleted. The person that posted the comment will not know their comment has been ‘hidden’, but it prevents it being seen by other Facebook users.

Say thank you

If appropriate, it can be beneficial to take the time to thank followers for their feedback. This will not only engage those responding to the crisis on a personal level, but it also shows that you act professionally as a brand, are accepting of feedback, and are willing to improve.

Moving on

Once the crisis has been dealt with, you then need to carefully consider when to resume your normal social media activity again, making sure that you have given enough days for followers to calm down. The topic of your next social post should avoid controversy, remain on brand, and tackle a topic unrelated to that of the crisis. After a few months of the crisis being resolved, you should consider archiving or removing posts relating to the issue so that new guests aren’t presented with negative content when they start following you on social media. This may not always be appropriate and could cause another crisis, so make sure you consider how people could react to this.

Our team live and breathe social media, so should you need advice on any of the topics discussed in this article, you can find out more here.