Social media management seems like a safe and cushy job, that is until you have a full-blown social media crisis on your hands. Not convinced?
Imagine this: A social media manager scrounging for content stumbles upon a share-worthy graphic on Tumblr that fits with their brand’s July theme.
The picture has a minimal aesthetic depicting some contrails from a rocket as it streaks across a red sky. It even looks like fireworks for Independence Day. Then, after a quick glance, it’s posted with the hashtags #smoke and #clouds on the 4th of July!
A few minutes later, that social media manager’s phone is blowing up. Also, hundreds of comments and angry DMs are flooding the brand’s social media notifications.
Turns out the cool picture of the rocket was a shot of the last minutes of the doomed NASA space shuttle Challenger. That space shuttle exploded mid-flight in 1986, killing everyone on board. Naturally, people are really mad.
Sounds like a made up example you would read in a “Social Media Management for Dummies” book, right? Well, that actually happened on American Apparel’s Tumblr page in 2014.
A social media crisis like that likely haunts the dreams of most social media managers. However, poorly thought out posts that turn into catastrophes are all too common!
Last year, Ledo Pizza, commemorated 9/11 with a pizza made to look like the American flag with the caption “#neverforget.” Needless to say, it was not received very well.
We are in the spirit of helping you avoid any social media disasters. And so, we have compiled a list of best practices to spot and dodge missteps before you have full-blown PR chaos of your very own.
These simple strategies can help your brand avoid social media faux pas and catastrophes.
Table of Contents
- Plan Ahead
- Listen Up
- Move Smartly
- Take Account Protection Measures
- Learn From Your Mistakes
This might seem obvious, but the best way to avoid a social media crisis or a PR fiasco is to set best practices or brand guidelines. These social media management tools can eliminate those sorts of events before they ever happen.
Essentially, best practice documents create a set of guidelines to ensure your content is always audience appropriate. For instance, it ensures your replies meet the requisite tone for solid public relations, and your accounts are securely managed.
In other words, creating these guidelines and operating within their parameters will save you from hours and hours of hair-pulling stress on the backend when dealing with a social media screw up.
- Set up a system of oversight, like a content calendar, that allows for transparency in the content creation and scheduling process.
- Make sure you have roles and a hierarchy set up for your social media accounts. Also, know who is creating content, who is posting it, and who is responding to messages or comments that might coming in.
- Think of the tone you are conveying through your content and replies. For instance, it helps if you have some differing perspectives to see if any posts may be insensitive to a diverse audience.
- Have a member of your team on call for social media emergencies.
- If you are re-sharing found content, reaching out to the original creator to make sure it’s fine to use their content will serve you well. However, if they are not available or you need to share it quickly, a friendly tag of the original poster can go a long way in preventing pushback for violating intellectual property practices.
Benjamin Franklin might not have anticipated social media when he said, “One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Sure enough, we cannot stress enough that taking some time to plan your social media strategy and crisis management strategy may render the rest of this article redundant.
After you have set up clear guidelines to avoid a social media crisis for your brand, you are not totally in the clear. As crises can rear their ugly heads from any number of directions irrespective of your content.
Among so many other unfortunate instances, trolls, bots, angry customers, or your competitors can post something damaging about your brand. These could cause a PR flare-up that could have lasting repercussions.
Luckily, you are already in the right place to learn about social media listening, as Keyhole is viewed by a number of social media experts as the best-in-class tool for just that.
Firstly, take advantage of sentiment analysis tools
Sentiment analysis tools are powered by machine-learning and language processing. In essence, they identify posts that relate to your brand and give them a positive, negative or neutral score.
And there is so much more you can do with sentiment analysis tools to make sure you spot troubles ahead.
Keyhole’s Intelligent Notifications feature is an excellent example of how brands can set up alerts to detect direct and indirect (‘dark’) posts with negative sentiment.
Social media listening tools allow you to cut through the noise in social media through comprehensive monitoring of reviews, posts, hashtags and keywords. Moreover, you can hone in on what is being said about you, your brand, your competitors, or causes you care about.
With Keyhole, you can easily monitor target hashtags and brand mentions to spot a social media crisis ahead. Then, you’ll have ample time to formulate a savvy response to any possible situation.
Platforms like Keyhole are also able to grant you a deeper insight into your audience’s thoughts about your overall digital footprint. In turn, you’ll have the tools to make sharp decisions and alter your brand strategy on the fly accordingly.
You may have a solid set of brand guidelines informing your content and tools like Keyhole giving you a bird’s eye view of your brand mentions.
However, it is still possible to have a social media crisis that calls for smart and timely action. We told you, social media management requires thick skin and a sharp mind.
Say a social media influencer or celebrity has a negative experience with your brand. For example, maybe they have a poor customer service experience or receive a faulty item.
Someone with their platform and reach can do a lot of damage to a brand in a short amount of time. So, make your move smartly to remedy these situations with as little noise from the community as possible.
Search engines are packed with information on how to inform your crisis responses. However, we found a great take from Arc Intermedia’s Matt Ulmer.
- Recognize the issue.
- Talk about the issue amongst your team and formulate a plan before communicating externally.
- Select a single spokesperson or social media account to handle the external communication.
- Make a real apology and take ownership of whatever actions caused the offence. Also, include social context for perceived ageism, racism, sexism, shaming, or xenophobia of any kind.
- Be transparent and available for any follow up questions or requests for comment from the media.
- Provide a tangible solution to the problem and address further community concerns.
- Stay open to comments and feedback from the community.
Matt’s strategy also reinforces the need for solid forethought and planning. As we said above, solidify your social media management roles, emergency contacts, and content strategy guidelines to minimize any scrambling in the midst of a social media crisis.
Above all, it is important to take a moment to breathe, think the situation through, and respond accordingly. In the end, these moments should not happen often if you have planned content thoroughly.
However, your handling of any crises could further damage your brand’s reputation if done in a hasty fashion.
Take Account Protection Measures
Unfortunately, we live in a time where trolls and hackers can gain unauthorized access to the digital world. Moreover, social media accounts are not immune to these sorts of cyberattacks.
Last July, hackers gained access to some high-profile Twitter accounts, including those of Elon Musk, Joe Biden, Apple and Uber. The hackers used the security breach to tweet-out a Bitcoin scam link that could have defrauded thousands.
That example is on the tamer side of the spectrum. As other hackers have gained access to celebrity or corporate Twitter accounts and unleashed profanity-laced tirades or uploaded pornographic images.
Account breaches have gone so far that Twitter hired a famed hacker to help them with the platform’s securityon the platform. In other words, it is important to make sure all of your social media accounts are secure.
First, generate a strong password and protect it using a password manager tool. Make it more difficult for a hacker to guess your password or use brute force techniques to crack your account.
Second, make sure you have enabled two-factor authentication for all of your social media accounts. These ping an associated phone or email with a login code to verify that you are an authorized user of the account.
Sure, it’s a pain to dig for your phone or switch tabs to get a 6-digit code from your email. Albeit, a hacked Twitter or Facebook could do tremendous reputation damage in minutes.
Be smart. Be safe.
Finally, make sure that you change login information or remove access to social media accounts in the event that you have to let an employee go.
There have been more than a few examples of disgruntled employees airing grievances and posting inflammatory or offensive Twitter posts.
The incidents at Tronc illustrate this point very well.
Take steps to make sure this does not happen to you.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Lastly, if your brand undergoes a social media crisis, document the cause, process, and response by your team. This information will be helpful in informing your social media management strategy.
In an ever-evolving social media landscape, it can seem daunting to deal with a social media crisis. Regardless, do not let that deter you from the benefits of social media. For instance, brand awareness, audience engagement, and opportunities that a well-run social media strategy can provide you.