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Crisis A-Z

How to effectively manage communication when a crisis looms over the brand? Let us tell you today about how to comprehensively approach social media crisis when black clouds gather over your company or personal brand.

For starters, let’s establish some facts.

Social media have blurred the line between what is private and what is public. Reaching specific information is now incredibly easy, and the speed of its sharing is staggering. This cannot be downplayed!

People willingly share their opinions and feelings. Most often, these judgments are made on the basis of first impressions that can be difficult to change later.

Your communication will probably differ depending on whether the products and services are aimed at the generation X, Y, Z. You must agree that each group of customers has different habits, a different budget and spends time in different social media channels.

Today, no one is surprised by the fact that some consumers dissatisfied with the service will simply resign from the services of a given brand. There are also those who will notify all friends… and strangers about this on Facebook and Tik Tok… If you run a business online, you should be aware of this.

A crisis in the social media and a crisis caused by social media are two different things, but we will tell more about it in a moment. Well, shall we start?

A crisis in the social media and a crisis due to the social media

Let’s assume you’re not a social media expert. As an entrepreneur, you are personally more focused on managing your business than managing your brand’s communication channels. You are aware that the online presence of your brand cannot be underestimated and you hire people to manage it. Let’s say that you have heard something about the crises related to social media, but you do not know exactly what they consist in yet.

And although the concepts of a crisis due to the social media and a crisis in the social media seem to be similar, you probably already have a feeling that the causes and effects of these crises may be completely different.

Let’s start with the crisis caused by the social media, that is … incompetent brand communication on the Internet. When combined with ignorance and lack of response to how the users of these websites react. As a result, the situation goes viral and is vividly commented on in other media.

The crisis in the social media is due to an internal factor. The impulse appears on social media or has been reinforced by them. It can come from several sources and concern a wide audience. All this makes offline business impossible to separate from the online world.

How does a crisis arise?

You must be aware that on the Internet even one post, comment, video or interview can become the source of many image “fires” that arise independently of each other. If you don’t know about it because you don’t have your finger on the pulse, it will be hard for you to manage the situation.

How does it work in practice? How does such inconvenient news spread?

Someone is making a screenshot with the post, someone is sharing it on Wykop, Demotywatory, Twitter, Tik Tok and BOOM! It goes viral! It starts with single users, and after a dozen or so hours everyone talks about it. The media report, search engines suggest, and influential commentators issue judgments.

You have three options:

  • There is a chance that the topic will quiet down as people will lose interest.
  • The topic will gain momentum and you will quickly control it, because you use the right tools to identify the sources of crisis information.
  • Events will take an unexpected turn and you will not react because you simply do not know what and where people are writing about you. Until you are mentioned everywhere, of course.

How does a crisis work?

If we seriously consider how a crisis works and where it comes from, we will notice that there is always a spark at the beginning. As a rule, this is a specific problem – someone will make a comment, record a video, publish a post. This may be a reaction to social media communication of a given brand or the individual feeling of a customer who, for example, bought dumplings in damaged packaging in a supermarket, or eggs that are not fresh.

It cannot be denied that customers often contact directly the company that sells the product first to share their opinions with it. If the brand ignores the problem, the situation may get out of hand.

We believe that before the worst-case scenario comes true, it is possible to intervene and mitigate a potential crisis. How? For example, by using tools that enable monitoring of opinions on your brand and responding to negative comments straightaway.

Worst case scenario? It’s a crisis that bursts out at the weekend. And practice shows that this is what happens most often. Why? We will get back to this.

How to reduce the likelihood of a crisis?

Basically, you can always react sooner. The form in which you prepare to prevent potential crises depends on your knowledge, imagination, budget and capabilities. What’s the best way to do this? Our experience shows that the model adopted by brands is always supported by several variants.

Hire the right people

Yes! Many people cannot even imagine how the brand image can be influenced by people who do not have communication skills, knowledge and those who do not share the company’s values.

Employees delegated to communicate with clients on the Internet should know their work well, so that a random post, comment or tweet does not turn into a situation that ridicules the brand or can lead to image loss.

Example:

  • Do you remember Tiger’s offensive post about August 1, the day of remembrance of the Warsaw Uprising? The brand apologised for it for a long time…
  • Do you recall a post by a producer of alcoholic products who placed a photo documenting the Lubin crime on its fan page? The image had a caption “The Hangover – script written with Żytnia vodka”. The campaign rightly met with public outrage.
  • In 2020, when there were protests against the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal on abortion in Poland, the influencer FitBadurka published a post advertising Olimp bars, adding the hashtags #womenshell.

 

Cooperation above all

The legendary phrase “it is not my responsibility”, popular not only in corporations but also in smaller companies – may cause a crisis. Even one incorrectly written post or comment can cause a storm. If the people you work with don’t feel responsible for the tone of your communication, you must change it.

Marketing and PR departments, a social media agency or a freelancer with whom you work – everyone should work closely with each other in order to support activities aimed at solving the crisis as soon as possible in accordance with the company’s strategy.

 

Use technology

It is natural that you are not able to manually monitor the media. Even if you hire people who will search the Internet every day for mentions of your brand, you won’t find everything. That is why companies that are aware of the potential of “bottom-up” communication with customers on forums, blogs and groups – use dedicated tools thanks to which, after entering the right phrases, they can react instantly to user comments on the web.

 

Follow procedures

When a crisis looms on the horizon, clear rules of conduct will be a great help for your employees. Every element is important in a well-functioning machine. If you make sure that everyone knows what to do in dire situations, then there is a chance that you will nip the fire in the bud. Specific diagrams and guidelines will only help you with this. In addition, after each such situation, the procedures should be supplemented, having analysed what worked and what did not work at all. You will check it using e.g. post-crisis reports.

 

Don’t wait for a huge fire, keep your eyes open!

As it has been mentioned already, experience shows that crises most often break out at weekends. Why? Users have time to comment and engage with topics that concern them directly or indirectly. Even if on Friday at 22:00 your employees watch and moderate communication channels, they certainly do it in a smaller team than on weekdays.

 

What can you do about it?

Monitor your brand and stay up to date. Reach places where users discuss your brand fiercely. Thanks to this, you will have smaller or larger crisis sources under control.

 

Be transparent 

Fortunately, the times are gone when one right opinion from one right source was the only right option. People today use many sources of information, send private messages to each other, share information found online. If your brand does not react, remains silent or does not tell the truth in the face of a crisis, it may quickly turn out that such a strategy is wrong. Even if you don’t have good news to share, be honest about what happened and what steps you are taking.

What can happen to a brand that remains silent in the face of a huge crisis? Do you remember the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico? British oil company BP kept its lips sealed for a long time, and the situation was very serious. The brand made an announcement after a long delay, but Internet users were directed to proven sources that reported on the course and size of the disaster.

 

Keep your promises

You have probably noticed that success is achieved by those brands that can quickly respond to a customer’s problem or propose an adequate solution. If the company, despite its promises, “does not deliver”, customers will quickly tell each other about it in the social media. And this smells like a crisis from a distance.

 

Hire a community manager

We wrote earlier about recruiting the right people. Think of a person who will know the company’s strategy and share the brand’s values. Experience in customer service, empathy and sales and marketing competences are also of great importance. Community manager is a man who stands on the first line of communication with your customers. If you properly combine his experience with available tools and social media monitoring apps, then you are able to keep your finger on the pulse in crisis situations.

 

How to cope with a crisis?

You must wonder now what to do if a social media crisis has already befallen you? How to react? Or maybe it’s better not to react at all and wait for the case to end and hope that people will find a new topic for discussion? What is your common sense telling you?

We will share our experience with you. Note that this tip does not depend on the size of the crisis. Regardless of its size – always stick to a good plan and open communication.

You will find the 5 steps principle in the resources that discuss the procedures and methods of dealing with a crisis. It is also briefly described by an expert on online crises – Monika Czaplicka in her book “Crisis management in social media”.

When faced with a crisis:

  • Apologize – this is a must. Many people, before the crisis unfolds, will accept the apology because it is what they expect in the first place. All you have to do is take the time, look at their problem and say how sorry you are about the situation that has arisen.
  • Admit your mistake – try not to blame others or force majeure. This unfortunately heats up the discussion unnecessarily (well, unless you are really without fault). So, beat your chest and follow the next steps of the procedure and strategy.
  • Prevent – now show clearly how you will avoid similar situations in the future. Explain how the events affect your internal procedures, hiring policy, alerting system and social media monitoring. A clear and legible way of communication will help you to quickly present your transparency.
  • Improve – Merely apologizing doesn’t do the trick when the situation repeats itself. Therefore, do everything possible to ensure that the crisis strengthens the internal response systems and provides an opportunity to eliminate the weak link that led to the crisis.
  • Compensate – depending on the scale of the crisis, choose a form of redress that will make the victims feel taken care of. Thanks to this, perhaps even to a small extent you will be able to mitigate the effect of the crisis that has occurred.

 

We hope that you now know how a crisis in the social media arises and how a media crisis differs from the one caused by the social media.

Always bear in mind that you can spot the warning signs of the crisis in good time. Take advantage of the technology and available applications that provide peace of mind for many companies. If you want to know how we can help you – write to us and test for free the tools that will track unfavourable comments about your brand on the web.

 

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