A Business’s Guide To Managing A Social Media Crisis

The boss of the banking industry body UK Finance has called on social media companies to reimburse victims of online fraud, accusing them of “profiting” from scams taking place on their platforms.

Handling a social media crisis can be a daunting task for any business. Given the extensive reach and power of social media, any misstep or mistake can quickly escalate into a full-blown crisis.

This can cause significant damage to your brand’s reputation, customer trust and, ultimately, its bottom line. Therefore, having a social media crisis management plan in place is critical to handle any negative situations that may surface effectively.

Here is an all-encompassing guide you can implement:

Understand The Scope Of The Problem

Every crisis starts somewhere, and the first step is to assess the severity of the issue. Before you look for a PR agency, consider the following:

  • Volume Of Negative Sentiment: Gauge how widespread the issue is. A single negative comment may not necessitate a full-blown crisis response. Conversely, if there’s an overwhelming wave of negative feedback, the situation requires prompt attention.
  • Origin Of The Crisis: Identify the source of the crisis. It could stem from a genuine customer complaint, an internal mishap, or even false information. Knowing the root of the problem will guide your response strategy.

Instead of panicking or reacting hastily, which can exacerbate the situation, calmly review the circumstances, understand its scale, and plan the next course of action. This will allow your business to execute a more targeted and effective response.

Establish Open And Honest Communication

After assessing the issue, initiate communication. Your company’s response should be open, honest, and transparent. Attempting to sidestep the problem or remove negative comments could instigate further discord across social media platforms. Instead, publicly acknowledge the problem and pledge to rectify it, thereby signalling to your audience that you’re taking responsibility.

Your audience appreciates honesty. They’ll likely be more forgiving when you own up to the mistake and show sincere efforts to correct it. Furthermore, maintaining consistency in communication is vital. Keep your customers informed about the steps you’re taking, reinforcing their trust in your brand.

Alongside keeping the communication channels open, continue monitoring the situation closely.

Monitor The Crisis

One of the secrets to successfully managing a social media crisis is continual monitoring. Track what people are saying about your business online. Employ tools like social media listening platforms to stay updated. This practice will help you understand public sentiment and measure the effectiveness of your crisis response.

However, monitoring is only one side of the coin. The other crucial aspect is your response to the crisis.

Respond Appropriately

Your crisis response must be prompt, decisive, and appropriate. An apology is often the best starting point, especially if your business is unquestionably at fault. Show empathy towards those affected.

In addition, provide clear steps on how you’re planning to address the issue. Do this both publicly on your social media platforms and privately to affected individuals.

Learn From The Experience

Every crisis comes with valuable lessons and growth opportunities. After the dust has settled, it’s time for a candid reflection. Identify the missteps and examine how the situation spiralled. What were the strengths and weaknesses in your response? This analysis should cover everything from the initial reaction to the final resolution.

Use these insights to formulate new strategies for future crises. The goal isn’t to assign blame but to strengthen your crisis management strategy, ensuring your business is better prepared for future issues. Remember, learning from your mistakes is a crucial step in managing and preventing further social media crises.

Develop A Social Media Crisis Plan

A social media crisis plan serves as your playbook during such incidents. This step-by-step guide should outline the necessary procedures to follow, roles to be played, and communication strategies to employ during a crisis. Here are key components to consider:

  • Crisis Identification: Not every negative comment constitutes a crisis. Define what a social media crisis means for your business. This could vary from widespread negative sentiment, a substantial drop in followers, to viral negative publicity.
  • Response Team: Identify the individuals responsible for managing the crisis. The team should comprise members from public relations, marketing, and upper management.
  • Communication Plan: Craft pre-approved messages addressing potential crises. While the specific language will need to be tailored to the situation, having a general framework can save precious time.
  • Response Channels: Specify the platforms for your response. Remember, your response should occur on the platform where the problem first appeared.
  • Follow-Up Procedure: Detail the steps to be taken after the crisis. This should include a thorough review of the crisis, an evaluation of the response, and necessary adjustments to the plan.

Having a social media plan assures you’re always ready when a crisis strikes. It guides your decision-making, promotes effective communication, and mitigates potential harm.

Get Professional Help

While it’s essential to manage most situations internally, sometimes external professional help is needed. In some instances, calling in public relations or crisis management experts can be advantageous. These professionals are well-equipped to manage such situations, potentially mitigating further damage to your brand.


Managing a social media crisis is never easy. It often requires understanding the problem, transparent communication, continual monitoring, appropriate responses, learning from experiences, proper planning, and seeking professional help when necessary. As businesses continue to navigate the digital sphere, the need for effective social media crisis management becomes paramount.