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Social Media Crisis Management 101: Detect Crises Early, and Mitigate Their Impact

Sprinklr Team

March 1, 2017  •  5 min read

Social media has made connecting with other people easier than it’s ever been in human history. We can keep in touch with people all over the globe at any time of day, switch seamlessly between communication platforms, and constantly keep tabs on our friends and loved ones.

In general, this is a good thing. But for brands, this rapid spread of information (both real and fake) can lead to crisis. Take the pink slime debacle that swept the country just a few short years ago. A single damning report by ABC News quickly had fast food empires like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King swearing off of “pink slime” — a not so flattering term for beef trimmings.

There was immense reputation damage before the beef industry made an attempt to clear its name and redeem the meat filler, and today the industry is still doing damage control.

In our social world, it’s critically important to detect a crisis early in order to mitigate its impact. Here is some insight into the effects of a social crisis, tips on reducing your risk, and how to tackle a crisis… should one arise.

How a Crisis Affects Your Brand

From a social and financial perspective, there are two reasons why it’s vital to master crisis detection and management:

Increased risk and cost. A social media crisis can be a one-two punch – first to consumers’ perception of your brand and then to your bottom line.

Lost time. In crisis mode, every second counts and your brand’s reputation is at stake. Meanwhile, you’re stuck drafting individual social posts, figuring out who needs to sign off on what, and then trying to do hand-to-hand combat on multiple channels simultaneously with thousands of angry customers.

The time and money spent spackling together a defense on social could better be spent on creative endeavors, new initiatives, and perfecting the customer experience. But when you’re knee-deep in crisis management, it’s all too easy to let tunnel vision take over.

Employ Social Listening… and Play Crisis Offense

As a brand, you want to minimize the impact of crises or negative incidents on social. But it’s even better to catch them early and prevent them if you can. Listen to conversations centered on brand and brand-related concerns, and get warnings about potentially damaging messages for early response and mitigation.

Essentially, if you pay attention to problem areas, you can inherently reduce your risk of catastrophic ones. Here are four ways to handle a crisis effectively:

1. Automatically listen for and detect crises.

By using smart social listening queries and a rules engine with a built-in alert system (so you reach the right people at the right time when crisis hits), you can stay at least a few steps ahead of a social debacle. Your social media management platform should have the ability to notify you via email and send in-platform alerts about crisis situations and impactful events so that you don’t miss a beat.

2. Distribute pre-approved brand responses on various channels and halt all outgoing advertising campaigns.

A solid crisis response infrastructure in place enables you to prepare for anything. If a social disaster strikes, it’s important that you have appropriate on-brand responses on hand, so your team doesn’t have to waste precious time crafting responses from scratch. And if your brand is embroiled in a social crisis, the last thing you want is to add fuel to the fire with further advertising; you need a crisis response infrastructure that will enable you to halt all outgoing advertising campaigns immediately.

3. Report on volume and sentiment of messages around the crisis topic.

Without actionable insights, brands have no way of knowing why something works or doesn’t — and to what extent. This is particularly true of crisis management; your social media management platform should have reporting capabilities that will enable you to mitigate further damage, learn from the mistake, and make an immediate plan of action.

4. Technology + training = effective crisis management.

Technology is only part of the solution in a crisis. It’s imperative that brands understand the ideal state in a crisis and then configure technology and train people to realize that state. The only true solution is to automatically listen and detect a crisis, analyze the impact, escalate and moderate approved responses, cancel planned and in-flight ads from going out, create and publish mitigating content, rally advocates, and report on key metrics from one platform. But all of this is heavily contingent on aligning the people, processes, and social media management platform needed to mitigate a crisis.

Attaining the (Seemingly) Unattainable

The ideal crisis state may sound like an oxymoron, but the truth is that crises do occur, so it’s best to be prepared for them. Brands need a centralized, strategic line of attack that prepares and empowers them to respond quickly, and that includes the right social crisis response infrastructure – one that employs social listening, on-brand messaging, and intelligently automated lines of defense.

On social media, information spreads like wildfire. The only way to extinguish a crisis — as well as build trust, dispel misinformation, and prevent further harm — is to invest in the right technology and training for your team before you ever need to put them to the test.

reduce risk with a crisis management plan

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