Social Media Crisis Plan: Got One?

by | Oct 27, 2011 | Marketing Strategy, Public Relations, Social Media Marketing

They say failing to plan is planning to fail. But in social media, where posts can go viral in seconds and become disasters in an hour or two – planning may seem a relic of a lost age. What pizza company would sit down and say “We should plan for the day some employee puts cheese up their nose, place it on our newest pizza and upload a video of it to YouTube.”

Yet with 73% of the US population now having a Facebook account, with Google+ spinning its circles and Twitter and LinkedIn offering expansive communities around brands – the stakes are far too high and too rapid-fire to ignore. Your brand may be a “Share on Facebook” away from becoming the next poster child for ineptitude thanks to unhappy customers, disaffected employees, or competitive slander that gets a half-million views.

As social engagement permeates the way brands interact with individuals, the stakes for reputational damage just keep going up. It’s especially concerning if your business faces privacy and disclosure regulations, such as the health care industry, where there’s legal and fiduciary consequences beyond embarrassment. Even companies with active social media monitoring efforts and firms who are using social media for improved customer service are not immune to surprises. When the crisis happens – you don’t want it to be too late.

Social media is implicitly real-time media – with faster demands than traditional communications and the need for multimedia formats. MESH believes every organization that engages in social media marketing needs a social media crisis communications plan ready. Period.  We help companies strategize, implement a plan, and if needed, take on an engagement during a crisis.  We encourage our clients to put a social media crisis communications plan in place or revise their existing crisis plan to include social media management.

A quick search on the Internet will deliver a number of templates focused on the organizational “how” of the process – establishing a communications team, phone /email lists, assigning spokespersons etc. However just as Web pages are more than templates, social media crisis communications planning must go beyond downloading a fill-in-the-blanks checklist from the Web.

Here are 7 considerations you don’t want your social media crisis management plan to overlook:

  1. Find keywords in crisis and mentions, to make immediate Web responses that flag and stop them.
  2. Define targeted, customizable immediate responses templates for each medium – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
  3. Frame one master apology post to be issued to the general population, for later modification per each medium.
  4. Speed is everything, but so is accuracy and tone. Engage rapidly but appropriately.
  5. Use specific channels for each constituency (customers, partners, etc.).
  6. Outreach to engage all others that may have been affected by the crisis.
  7. Monitor all conversations, and work to contain them to social media.

In the end, social media is just another form of communications media that we as professionals must monitor, cultivate and manage with the same discipline as the rest of the marketing mix. Treating it as anything less is akin to actively planning to fail.

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