Picture this: You are responsible for managing the social media for your business and all of a sudden your cell phone is blowing up and your email inbox starts filling up with email notifications from Facebook & Twitter because a crisis has struck. Your fans/followers/customers take to social media to voice their complaints and lash out at your company.
How do you respond? What actions do you take? How do you deal with all the comments? All of these issues came up recently when one of my consulting clients had a terrible incident in one of their rental buildings. A fire broke out and tragedy struck. Within minutes the first complaint hit their Facebook page. I think it was sent before the person even left the building. This example demonstrates the harsh reality of how quickly negative sentiment about your brand can spread due to the power of social media. In the days that followed, it would come out the building was fully up to code and the management company did nothing wrong. However, if your business does not have a plan in place to respond to such incidents then damage to the brand’s image can already be done. Thus having a social media plan in place and executing that plan in a timely fashion is critical to managing your brands reputation on social media. Below are the steps we took manage the crisis successfully and in the end win praises and appreciation for our response.
After a crisis occurs it is important to respond quickly. Your customers are reaching out to vent and get questions answered so you need to communicate. The longer the comments go unanswered the more frustrated your customers get and the more the complaints start to build up. By responding quickly you show that your brand is human and that you do care. Furthermore, by taking action quickly, you proactively prevent complaints from being published as you are providing answers. Thus, we ended up posting within 2 hours of the first complaint.
Say I’m Sorry
Be apologetic. The first thing to do in a crisis such as this is to let your customers know that you are genuinely sorry. My client was really upset about the crisis outcome and their sincere apology on social media resonated with their fans/followers. The human component of social media was demonstrated and their fans applauded it. Moreover, they had several fans responding with their offer to help out in any way they could.
After apologizing, you need to provide information. What is being done, where your customers can reach you, will there be updates, etc. Provide the contact address or number where your customers can reach out to you and make sure to answer their maessages/calls. In the days or weeks that follow demonstrate your continued effort to rectify the situation by providing the necessary updates.
It is not only important to respond quickly, but also important to monitor the conversation closely and respond in real-time. Don’t disappear after the initial response. For this client, we assigned someone to stay glued to their social media platforms and respond instantly.
Business As Unusual
My client’s voice on its social media platforms is to be a resource of helpful information about the neighborhoods in which it has buildings as well as a resource of apartment rentals. However, we did not want to get back to business as usual from a posting perspective but also did not want to dwell on the crisis either. So we decided to ease back into their normal postings with some interim fun and uplifting posts.
Every crisis is different and there are probably many different course of action to take that will be effective, but the steps above should be a part of any crisis management policy. If you have any comments or other things you have done or seen, please let me know with a comment below.