Social Media Management Best Practices – Crisis Communications
>Social media management firms are increasingly viewed as a core component to both marketing and overall communications within a company and without a doubt, one of the most challenging aspects of both marketing and communications takes place during a crisis. Crisis communication is certainly something we all hope never to need but should the worst happen, it’s good to know you have a team of professionals ready and able to assist.
What is Crisis Communication?
A crisis can come in nearly any shape or size; from a single, angry client or disgruntled employee seeking to ruin the reputation of a small business owner to a nationwide outrage over a new policy or situation. Each presents unique risk and reward possibilities depending upon how the situation is handled. While most small business owners immediately think that any negative form of communication is undesirable, research actually shows a quite different and more complex situation. In fact, most negative forms of communication fall somewhere on a continuum and include one or more of the following reactions among clients:
Overtly Negative: Nothing can or will change their mind. This person is often out for revenge due to a real or perceived conflict with the company. It is often limited to a single individual who has opted to make their complaint public in the hope of damaging business or the reputation of the provider. Often blocking messages and removing undesirable content is required on a daily or even hourly basis. Social media management firms routinely hire staff that specialize in moderating communications via social media sites and other forms of communication.
Passionate: This may be an individual or group who takes issue with a new product, service or even ethical position taken by the company. Often these people care deeply about a given issue and may represent some of your very best (and most actively vocal) clients. Rather than cut off communication with, research shows that engaging and then taking appropriate action to resolve the issue in an equitable manner actually enhances overall reputation in the long run! Once again, social media management firms frequently encounter situations where reputation management is required both on the associated social media sites but also across the entire Internet. While not an everyday situation, it’s good to know the resource is available when and if needed.
Mob PR: Few things are worse than encountering overwhelming negative publicity due to improper PR. It may have been an inadvertent expose, lawsuit, mistake or any number of things that resulted in widespread – negative- publicity. Careful and cautious communication is required to assure legal, privacy and other fiduciary duties are upheld even while responding to the problem.
One of the most surprising aspects of crisis communications is the understanding that when properly handled, even negative publicity may result in increased awareness, escalated sales and better long term reputation…but ONLY if properly handled!
Recognizing a Crisis in the Making
Perhaps one of the most valuable – yet least recognized – uses of social media trends is the ability to recognize a crisis in the making. This is a strategy long employed by big business brands but only recently has the technology and know-how become available to small business owners. Recognizing a crisis in the making allows a company to either respond to a problem before it gains ground and/or “gets out of control”, minimize overall impact or management fall-out. All three are useful modes of communication for small business owners that may be especially sensitive to changes in consumer sentiment.
So, what are the signs of a crisis in the making? Social media management firms are often able to track both macro and micro trends related to an entire industry, sentiment or a specific company. Contrary to popular opinion, most crisis ARE able to be identified in advance and are rarely random
Stage 1 – Rising tide of sudden murmurs. By tracking trends, it’s often possible to see a sudden rise in the mention of certain negative events or remarks that are gaining ground. Keeping track of various alerts often provides an early indication of potentially negative trends that then allow the company to respond, fix or eliminate if identified early enough.
Stage 2 – Momentum building. Like a wave that has gained more and more ground while rushing to the shore, the second stage is characterized by a build-up of momentum. More and more people are talking about the issue, sharing it or otherwise taking action. This is often the first notice that most small business owners have of a potential problem and they unfortunately tend to UNDERESTIMATE the severity of the problem at this stage.
Stage 3 – Chronic or exponential growth. At this point the wave is getting ready to hit the shore and break wide open…bringing with it a powerful force to be reckoned with. Most small business owners are caught by surprise how fast, strong and negative this force can be especially since they underestimated the problem in stage two and failed to recognize it at all during stage one. Now full blown crisis management is required in order to avoid severe fall out.
Stage 4 – Resolution. One way or another, the crisis will eventually resolve but how many clients were gained or lost will be a direct result of how well the small business owner was able to identify, intervene and respond during the first three stages.