How To Leverage Social Listening For Managing Crisis

In an age where a small mishap can make the internet rounds in a matter of minutes, learning how to manage any crises that affect your business should be a top priority. It’s easier than ever to call out individuals and companies for shady behaviors. Still, sometimes innocent mistakes or innocuous blunders can also hit the so-called “headlines.” 

Imagine you’ve partnered with what appeared to be a solid influencer for your marketing campaign, but soon after you launch, some unsavory tweets from the past emerge that show your values really don’t align. 

What can you do? This is where social listening can come to your aid. Social listening is your ear to the ground of the internet, helping you to detect problems early on so that you can formulate an appropriate plan of action.

What is social listening?

Social listening involves monitoring online conversations, understanding sentiments, and extracting insights from social media platforms that are relevant to your brand. 

Social listening tools scan websites, blogs, and social media platforms so that you can quickly find out if anyone is saying anything negative about your contact center management company, for example. They pick up on any keywords, such as names or topics, that are important to your company and then report any relevant information back to you. 

With useful features such as alerts around activity spikes, social listening is sort of like a seismometer for the internet, warning you before a metaphorical volcano erupts. On your dashboard, you can see whether a spike is positive or negative, as well as order the groups or individuals discussing your brand by influence.

The role of social media in crisis communication

A seismograph is vital in alerting governments of impending disasters so they can evacuate residents. Similarly, social listening can alert you of any simmering issues and give you the chance to change the course of events and prevent any casualties. 

You can hone in on any rustling Instagram or TikTok bushes and offer well-timed and articulate rebuttals or apologies. This can help you avoid a PR scandal by extinguishing the spark before it becomes a forest fire. 

By gaining invaluable insights into how your audience perceives your brand and any changes in sentiment, you can create a PR and marketing strategy with this information in mind. 

5 Advantages of social listening in crisis management

So, now that we’ve given an overview of social listening, let’s delve deeper into how you can use it to manage crises.

1. Early issue detection and real-time insight generation

Like with most problems in life—such as illnesses, red flags in relationships, or a shaky pilot episode—early detection can save you a lot of heartache.

Social listening tools help you identify the first signs that a crisis is on the horizon. Your social listening radar picks up on changes in tone, sentiment, and mentions frequency, however subtle. 

Examples include a sudden steep increase in complaints from customers or negative Google reviews. Perhaps an unflattering social media post about your brand is making the rounds on the internet and getting shared a bunch of times on Instagram.

2. Timely crisis response and effective damage control

The internet never sleeps. Someone is always online, and algorithms are always ticking away in the background. We live in a hyper-connected world, and no act goes unnoticed. This means that you need to always be “on” and in tune with what is happening online. 

Well, not “you,” but your social listening tool. By offering real-time monitoring, you can have real-time data and actionable insights to protect your brand. This allows you to respond as quickly as possible to an emerging issue and reduce the likelihood of misinformation and disinformation getting a foothold in the public discourse. 

3. Proactive trend identification and analysis

When you hear that a crisis is unfolding, it’s useful to know where on the internet it’s happening. This can help you to hone in on the platforms and accounts that are causing the issues. Crisis mapping, which involves tracking how a crisis is spreading, as well as its impact across different regions, platforms, and even age groups and demographics, gives you a lot of actionable data. 

Social listening tools can give you a visual guide to the data, such as graphs, diagrams, heat maps, and more. Much like tracking the spread of an illness, you can figure out where it’s originating, where it’s likely to spread to next, how it’s being spread, and by whom. Then, you can create a more effective response strategy than just issuing a public statement. 

4. Customer relationship management and trust building

Another great thing about social listening is that it gives you an idea of what people think of your brand. It’s not just for times of crisis or extremely bad press; it can also be helpful to gather information more generally about what people are saying about your AI powered call intelligence tool, for example. This can help you fireproof your house instead of putting out fires all the time. 

If you know that people don’t think of you as environmentally friendly, instead of waiting for those little cinders to become a small fire, which could potentially burn your reputation to the ground, you could simply make solid and visible steps to become more ecologically oriented. 

5. Competitor analysis and strategic learning for future planning

Social listening is a vital tool in competitor research. It’s not enough to know what you’re doing right or wrong. You need to know how your competitors are faring. This can help you with strategic planning and allow you to capitalize on any crises they may face. Say your competitor is receiving criticism online for slow deliveries. With social listening, you can spot this and swoop in with a next-day delivery promise. 

Strategies for crisis management with social listening 

Now that we’ve covered the role of social listening in crisis management, you may be wondering how you can use this valuable tool when everything goes awry. Here are some practical tips for navigating stormy waters, all the way from before you set off to when you make it back to solid ground. 

Before a crisis

As the old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.” While we can’t prevent every crisis, we can take steps to mitigate the effects. Here is where the right tools and plan come into play.

1. Set up social listening tools

The first step in a social listening place is to implement social listening tools. There is a wide range of solutions, each with its own features and scope. Some will solely track keywords, while others are all-in-one social media analytics tools that combine social listening with influencer tracking and analytics. 

Keyhole dashboard

2. Define key metrics and keywords

Once you have your listening tools up and running, it’s time to decide what you need to measure. Some important metrics include:

  • Brand awareness
  • Number of mentions
  • Reach
  • Demographics
  • Engagement
  • Sentiment

You’ll need to set up these tools to listen to relevant keywords. While some keywords will be applicable to every business—such as your brand name, sentiment keywords, and competitor names—others will be industry-specific. 

For example, if you work at Microsoft, the term “blue screen” spiking in activity should be a major cause for concern. However, if you work in CGI, this will have a completely different meaning. Take time to collate the keywords specific to your industry.

Other important keywords are the names of your C-Level employees and keywords related to any marketing campaigns.

3. Create an escalation plan

When things go wrong, people tend to panic. That’s where a solid escalation plan comes in. This will help avoid crucial mistakes such as sending out a poorly worded apology before the dust has settled. Make sure everyone knows their role and how it fits in with the overall plan. 

4. Track industry trends and movements

Shifts in industry trends can hugely impact how consumers view your brand. Perhaps your company has a reputation for using sustainable palm oil. While this may have satisfied customers a few years back, new alternatives mean that your eco-conscious customers may go elsewhere. Keeping track of industry trends—and, importantly, how your audience views them—can go a long way to keeping disaster at bay. 

During a crisis

Unfortunately, even with solid preparation, disaster can strike. However, there are steps you can take to lessen the impact. 

1. Conduct real-time monitoring

Social listening should be a continuous process. It’s not enough to run a check at the end of each day. Real-time monitoring is vital here. That way, you can stay on top of the unfolding crisis instead of being left behind. 

2. Identify early warning signs

With real-time monitoring, you can spot the ripples of a crisis before the tsunami wave hits. If you track the right keywords and conduct the right sentiment analysis, you should be able to identify early warning signs of an impending crisis. This is where you spring into action.

3. Categorize and prioritize mentions

Now, you need to start sorting through all the data coming in across every channel. You will be getting countless mentions, both positive and negative, at this point, and you need to filter this so you’re getting vital, real-time information. 

With the right filters and categories, you can easily take a wide-angle view of the crisis and where the issues are coming from.

4. Promptly and transparently address concerns

These days, customers expect a swift response to any issues. In the age of social media, a few hours delay is enough to tank a brand’s reputation. 

The first step is acknowledging them and letting them know that you are working hard on resolving their issues. Be transparent in the steps you are taking, and make sure to follow up on your promises. If customers can see you being proactive when a crisis unfolds, they are likely to be more forgiving. 

After a crisis

Once the dust settles, you might be tempted to relax and move on. However, your work is far from done. Post-crisis analysis and rebuilding trust are just as vital as the steps you take during a crisis. 

1. Prepare post-crisis analysis and assessment

While surviving a crisis may seem like the only important issue to deal with, it’s important to analyze how you fared post-crisis. Some important questions to ask include:

  • How did your team deal with the crisis?
  • How did customers react to your messaging?
  • What effect did this crisis have on your overall brand reputation?
  • How quickly did your social listening pick up on a crisis unfolding?
  • What terms did you miss?
  • What terms were useful?

2. Rebuild brand trust and reputation

Any crisis, no matter how small, can seriously affect your brand reputation and the trust you’ve carefully built with your customers. Hopefully, you’ve been proactive enough to soften the blow, but now it’s time to start building bridges and mending fences. Reach out to affected customers and follow up on anyone you’ve already been in contact with.

You may also want to put out a statement. If so, make sure it’s sincere and outlines practical steps you will be taking to rebuild trust. Customers are quick to spot an insincere apology, and it will ruin any potential goodwill you’ve managed to salvage. 

3. Review and enhance the crisis management plan

How did your plan match up with the actual unfolding of events? Were there unforeseen events or steps that were hard to apply in the heat of the moment? Apply your post-crisis analysis here to reiterate and improve your crisis management plan. Every crisis can turn into a learning experience that helps your brand. 

4. Maintain vigilance and readiness

Stay alert. Regularly check your social listening tools, refine your crisis strategies, and conduct drills to ensure your team is prepared. By cultivating a culture of vigilance and readiness and using social listening tools, you can protect your brand for years to come.

Navigate crises safely with social listening

In a world of lightning-speed transmissions of thoughts and ideas, having a social listening tool in place to manage any crises of misinformation relating to your brand is a necessity.

You don’t have to be switched on all the time or trawling through comments. There’s an app for that. If you want a clear understanding of who is saying what and where condensed into actionable data, try out our free trial and see what social listening can do for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is social listening an important part of crisis management?

Social listening allows you to identify the source of your crisis and figure out what steps are needed to deal with it. It also allows you to tap into customer sentiment and be proactive in your response.

2. What are social listening tools?

Social listening tools are software solutions that monitor and analyze online conversations. They pick up on keywords and customer sentiment relevant to your brand. They are invaluable tools for gaining insights into your audience and overall industry.

3. How do I choose a social listening tool?

Choosing a social listening tool will depend on your requirements as well as your budget. While some tools are basic keyword searches, others, like Keyhole, are user-friendly social media reporting & analytics tools that provide an all-in-one solution with different pricing plans.

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