Many experts recommend that your company have a social media crisis plan, but few companies actually take the time to think it through. As someone who works in the social media department of many companies, I have seen plenty of thrown-together crisis plans. As with most things, companies cannot help but think "it won't happen to me." For this reason, many crisis plans are not thought out properly. When something happens and this hazy plan is put into action, many companies find themselves cleaning up not only the crisis in the first place, but the plan that backfired.
Whether it be because a company did not intend for a social media crisis or simply thought that they had a good plan in place, it is not uncommon for recovery to go wrong on top of the initial problem. Consider some of the ways that a social media crisis plan could go wrong:
- Two people from the company issue apologies through different mediums without talking with one another. This could cause miscommunication and one may promise something that the other did not. Worse yet, the two parties could promote conflicting ideas.
- The crisis plan may have been set into motion too late. If a member of a company is not very active on social media, he/she could potentially not hear of the crisis until a few days later.
- The crisis plan may be set for something less serious. If the crisis is serious to the company, yet it not treated that way, people could get very upset.
Whatever the reason the plan failed, it is important that a company knows how to clean it up. This will of course depend upon the type of situation, but in most cases any kind of social media backfire can be solved.
Steps to Organizing a Social Media Mess
Consider the steps that a company should take if the social media crisis plan backfires:
Step #1: Communicate with everyone in the company about who is going to be the spokesperson for both mishaps.
This first thing that you want to do is get the entire company together. Discuss the initial crisis and then the crisis that you have at hand. Talk about who the official spokesperson is going to be in order to keep everyone included. This meeting will let them know who is going to put the solution into action so that there is no overlap or conflicting ideas.
Step #2: Discuss how you plan to solve both crises.
Bounce ideas off one another to see how you should go about fixing both situations. If two people came out and said different things, talk about who is going to apologize. If there was a comment online or a video online that needs to be deleted or discussed (remember the Dominos crisis of 2009?), then you need to take action immediately. If your plan went into action too late, you will certainly need do address that issue as well.
Step #3: Go out and solve both crises simultaneously. Put more emphasis on the initial problem than the one that you directly created.
Naturally, the next step is to actually take action. However, many companies are unsure whether they should put a focus on what happened in the first place or the problems that they had trying to help. In most situations, it's always best to focus on the initial crisis. This will let customers and the public know that you are not ignoring the real problem. What you did to "solve" it should still be addressed, but do not make this more important than the issue that started it all.
Step #4: Create a social media crises plan so this does not happen again.
Get together with the executives and/or the social media department in your company and create a social media crisis plan. This will ensure that you are prepared for the unexpected and no longer have to worry about cleaning up a mess you made. Hopefully, dealing with this type of mess is over for your company. There is no reason that a company should react incorrectly twice to a social media crisis if this step is taken.
Step #5: Let the entire company know your new plan.
It is important to keep everyone in on the loop because most of your staff is likely involved in social media. There is a good chance that someone on your staff will see the problem and want to solve it themselves, so it's good to let all employees know that you are prepared should a crisis occur.
Once a company has gone through a mess like this, it is important not to let it happen again. Now is the perfect time to really think-through a social media crisis plan and be ready for the unexpected. It can happen to you, but it can also be solved by you if you take the time to really get prepared.
Have you ever had a social media crisis plan backfire? What did you do to solve the problem?
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Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to credit card processing. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including errors and omissions insurance to small businesses and entrepreneurs for the leading business directory, Business.com.