The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media Crisis Management

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    Lessons on how to stay out of trouble in the social media jungle

    Social media crisis management has been a part of 99% of the damaging situations we’ve seen this year. In fact, more often than not, social media is a driving factor behind any given crisis. The bottom line here is that you simply can’t afford to not understand how social media crisis management works.

    There are a few things every single organization should be doing when it comes to social media crisis management.


    1. Monitor closely. Knowledge is power, and having even a few minutes of lead time on a breaking situation feels like an eternity during a crisis. Combine monitoring tools and human effort to catch mentions, sentiment, and brutally honest feedback from important audiences.
    2. Create a network in advance. We frequently hear from clients that they don’t want to be on social media at all. Too bad! You don’t have to be a social media darling but if you don’t create the platforms that will allow you to do crisis communications right you’re asking for trouble.
    3. Plan and practice. A stressful situation is not the place to assemble a working plan. Knowing in advance what you should do in predictable situations and having enough practice reps to allow you to execute the plan is a step that’s overlooked frighteningly often.

    On the flip side, there are some items that should be avoided at all costs. Let’s just say that the outcome is never pretty.


    1. Come off as “fake”. The internet in particular LOVES to call people out as being fake. If you’re pushing too far from your true personality or established brand tone you’re likely flirting with disaster. The biggest way to stop this Don’t in its tracks is to make certain you’re getting honest feedback from a variety of critics before anything goes live. Yes-men are not your friends if you want to avoid this pitfall.
    2. Engage on someone else’s turf. Never go looking for a fight in an area someone else controls. If a particular blogger is causing negative reactions from your audience the place to respond is not the comments section. Utilize platforms you control and where you can help keep the conversation civil while moderating to knock out harmful rumors before they can take hold.
    3. Take nights or weekends off. Social media doesn’t sleep, it doesn’t take weekends off, and it doesn’t care whether it’s a holiday. While everyone wants to check out for a couple of days after a stressful week, when you’re in the midst of a crisis any significant gap in communications makes the situation exponentially worse.

    Winging it is not an acceptable approach when sparking public outrage once can create permanent, sometimes insurmountable damage. Know your dos and avoid Don’ts to stay out of trouble!

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]

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