5 Tips for Responding to a Crisis on Social Media

The recent severe thunderstorm event (aka the derecho) that raced through a large swath of the Midwest and Northeast on June 29 left millions without power — and very unhappy about it. Many of them took to social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to express their displeasure with their utility companies.

Responding to unhappy customers on social media is always challenging, but that challenge is magnified in a crisis or other severe event. Even if you’re not a major utility responding in times of natural disaster, any business would do well to be prepared to respond if a crisis hits. That’s why you need a crisis communications plan for your social media accounts.

Here are 5 tips for using social media platforms as part of a crisis communications plan.

Respond quickly

If you wait too long after someone mentions you on Twitter or posts on your Facebook page, it looks like you aren’t paying attention or don’t care. No, you can’t spend 24 hours a day monitoring your account, but respond quickly when you are, and let followers know when the account will be unmonitored.

Be authentic

Don’t just give the same canned response to negative comments; vary it so your account doesn’t seem like an unfeeling robot.

Be polite

This can be a tough one, especially if thousands of people are venting virtual invective at you, but as with ordinary customer service, responding in kind will only escalate the communication. Keep it simple and keep it calm. “We understand you’re frustrated and we’re working quickly to resolve the situation.”

Be transparent

Give us much detail as you can, as soon as you can. Once followers realize you aren’t trying to keep information from them, they’ll be more understanding.

Have an end game

How will you continue communicating after the crisis passes? What will you share with customers to let them know how everything was resolved and what you plan to do to prevent or mitigate such an event in the future?

Remember, too, that your social media universe doesn’t just consist of Twitter and Facebook. If you have a YouTube channel, check for comments there. Ditto for other profiles your company has, such as on LinkedIn or Yelp. Don’t be afraid to call for help, either. If the level of response becomes too much for you or your team, augment your resources with a communications professional who can not only provide additional people power, but the experience to respond appropriately and quickly.

If you don’t know how you’d respond to a crisis, or who would be on your incident team, you need a social media crisis management plan. Innate Agency can guide your brand through the process, from pre-incident preparation to response management and coordination to post-incident conclusion. Contact us today.

[Photo credit: TRF_Mr_Hyde, Flickr Creative Commons]

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