More share buttons
Share on Pinterest

Don’t Wait to Create a Social Media Crisis Plan

By November 20, 2013Social Media

One day you’re sitting there, minding your own business, and you realize your company’s Twitter account has been hacked. You didn’t do anything to deserve it and maybe it’s not your fault, but regardless it’s been happening to people more and more often.

You need to be ready. No excuses. So you’ve got to have a social media crisis plan you can put into place the second something fishy starts.

Of course, this goes beyond someone hacking into your brand’s account. A social media crisis plan should cover communication mistakes (wait, did I just tweet that on Brand XYZ’s account?! It was supposed to be from my personal account.), faulty product or services, making unpopular changes, bad press, or even angry and dissatisfied customers.

Be Proactive

The best defense against a social media crisis is to be proactive. The following are a few actions to take to prevent a social media crisis from happening in the first place.

  • Change your passwords every 3-6 months and make them a combo of letters, characters, and upper- and lower-case letters. No more “password” as your password either.
  • Have a social media policy in place for all your employees and contractors to use. Tailor it to the social networks you are on.
  • Keep an eye on conversations (both good and bad) that people have about your company, product, or service. Respond to dissatisfied customers promptly. Even if your public response is to ask the person to send you an email, this stops them from broadcasting their concerns or complaints to all and can help you resolve the situation faster. You don’t have to respond to everyone who writes something bad about your product. Just keep an eye on negative comments so they don’t get out of hand.
  • Have an internal plan in place if your product or service is recalled or has a glitch. You want to know who to notify right away and who will handle the crisis or issue as it comes up. It’s best to have this set ahead of time so you’re not scrambling.

Sometimes, regardless of how you try to avoid a crisis or issue, one pops up anyway. Below are various situations that may arise and how to handle them if they do come up.


1) Hacker on Social Media

A hacker hacks into client’s social media account and sends out spammy or inappropriate messages. Because getting hacked is becoming more common place, fans and followers will probably be forgiving when this happens.

Steps to Take:

  • Change the passwords on your accounts. The most important thing is securing the account again.
  • Remove the hacked message if possible (e.g. if it’s a tweet or status update).
  • Admit that the client has been hacked with a pre-approved message. See some examples below:
    • Sorry everybody, it looks like we’ve been hacked. Please do not open the link. We’re working on getting this resolved quickly. 
    • We’ve been hacked – please delete any personal message you might have received from us. Thanks for understanding.
    • We’ve just joined the league of people who have been hacked, but have no fear, we’ve run them out of town. Thanks for understanding.
  • Monitor the situation to see and respond to any issues that may arise from the hack.

communication mistake

2) Communication Mistake

The person in charge of the company Twitter account posts something inappropriate to that account. People see it and a brouhaha ensues. This social media crisis also is becoming more common as people are managing multiple social media accounts and flipping back and forth between them.

Steps to Take:

  • Admit the error and explain that it is being looked into or it has been dealt with. Apologize for any offense taken.
  • Decide internally how to deal with this error so that it does not happen again.
  • Monitor the situation to see and respond to any issues that arise from the hack.

3) Faulty Product or Service

Your product has been recalled. What do you do?

Steps to Take:

  • Look into what the problem is and the company’s plan to resolve the recall situation.
  • Notify your fans and followers of the situation. Offer as much information as you are able to give. Ask fans and followers to email the company if they have concerns about the recall.
  • Keep fans updated about the situation as it unfolds.
  • Monitor conversations. This is a situation that could have longer lasting implications.


4) Social Media Issues

Social media issues differ from social media crises because they are smaller in scale. These may look tiny now, but if you let them go unattended, sometimes they’ll turn into a social media crisis. It’s best if you can avoid that.

A) Making an Unpopular Change

You’re making a big change to a product that many people love. Do you really want to go down this road?

Steps to Take:
There are two potential ways to handle this:

[ordered_list style=”decimal”]
  1. Listen to their feedback and revert the change.
  2. Stand firm and hope it blows over. It might. Shake Shack had an issue with making the change from crinkle fries to fresh cut fries… and well, this is what happened. All seems to have died down since then and Shake Shack stood by their decision.[/ordered_list]

B) Angry/Dissatisfied Customers

Your customer is not happy with you and he’s telling everyone he knows about it. You can’t win everyone over, but the best thing you can do is try to resolve his issue offline and quickly.

Step to Take:
Write to him on the social media platform he’s broadcasting from and give him the contact info of the person who can resolve his problem. Even if you cannot resolve his issue fully, at least the customer (and all his followers) can’t say you ignored him.

C) Negative Press

A reporter writes something horrible about your company or your CEO, or unearths a terrible secret from the past.


Steps to Take:

[ordered_list style=”decimal”]
  1. Talk it through internally.
  2. Decide on what to say about the situation to your fans or followers.
  3. Communicate with your fans and followers in a human way (meaning not in an overly formal way while still remaining professional). It’s easier for people to forgive humans for being humans than forgive a faceless corporation for human errors.
  4. Monitor and respond accordingly.[/ordered_list]

Other Social Media Crises

Since you may encounter other social media crises than the ones on this list, here’s a good general outline for response:

[ordered_list style=”decimal”]
  1. Take action internally to understand the situation and remedy it if possible.
  2. Communicate about the situation with followers/fans, but do not say more than you know. ‘Fess up if you did something wrong, apologize, and then work to make it right.
  3. Monitor the situation closely.[/ordered_list]

Notice how I didn’t say that any of these social media crises or issues have to spell the death of your company or brand. Although it may feel like it when you are in the heat of the crisis, the furor will die down… as long as you take appropriate action. With that, you may even win a few fans over to your side in the end.

Have you ever dealt with a social media crisis or issue? How did you handle it?

Author Ayelet Golz

More posts by Ayelet Golz

Leave a Reply