There comes a time in every social media manager’s life when they will be faced with a massive influx of messages like these whether due to an unfortunate mix up, an accidental (offensive or non-offensive) message, a marketing ploy gone awry or the company doing something genuinely bad. Recently it was the manager of The Red Hen Twitter account, which has been unfortunately confused with a similarly-named restaurant in Lexington, VA. The Lexington Red Hen has been targeted by trolls since refusing service to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
During these times it helps to have a social media crisis plan waiting in the wings to be implemented until the public inevitably forgets and moves on to the new thing to be mad about; here are a few points to include in that plan:
Appoint a Team Leader
Every social media crisis needs a leader to be the defining voice of what you’re going to do. If you don’t know who your point person is at the start of your crisis, and only figure it out after you’re already well into it, you’re already starting off on a sour note. Your team leader doesn’t necessarily have to be the leader of the entire company, they probably have their own things to do during crises and don’t have time to delegate tasks to others. The team leader should be someone experienced and organized and capable of discerning what areas need the most attention. It could be the social media manager, communications director, or if your company has a PR agency or department, a crisis communications specialist.
Create a Blanket Statement
Personalized apologies are the best practice, but if you’re getting 100 comments or replies in an hour you do not have time to write an individual answer to each and every one. Sometimes just a blanket “We’re sorry for the inconvenience, we’re working to fix the problem and appreciate your patience.” is just fine. For customers that have a legitimate grievance with your client, you want to encourage them to take the conversation to email or private messages. Whereas if you’re dealing with trolls that are just harassing your client to harass them, give them the blanket response and be done with them. No good ever comes from fighting with a troll.
Some crises aren’t actual crises. People who are unhappy with something your business or your client did are always going to be shouting the loudest. Vocal minorities can be overwhelming and can lead to panicking, issuing an apology when one might not be necessary, and ultimately drawing more attention to the problem than there was originally. Before you do anything, take a hard look at what’s being said and by how many people and evaluate what kind of response it needs. Roundpeg has done a deep dive on this issue before. Take these tips to begin forming a foundation of your social media crisis plan and check out this other blog post from Roundpeg on crises plans.
For more on this topic, check out this interview with Jennifer Crawford, who manages social media for Podbean for tips on how she handled a not so good, very bad day.