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Handling social media crisis is much easier than you think. There’s just a way to it

by Adedolapo Olisa

August 19, 2019


Anastasia Hawkings, a single mother of one who makes daily living from her active blog was once travelling through  ARTick Airlines, a renowned flight brand in Greece for her summer vacation. While at the airport, she published a story about how the airport police violently grabbed her child from her, creating a discomforting scenario. 

Of course, readers responded with comments of sympathy, rebuking the awful behaviour of ARTick Airlines’ officials, labelling them as “uncultured entities”. Online resistance and callouts soon began. And as anticipated, hundreds of loyal customers, especially mothers, frowned in disdain at the unhealthy customer relation portrayed by their once-trusted airline. 

Understanding what’s at stake, the airline management, after listening to Hawkings “allegations” swung in, to investigate the claims. Quickly, they responded via their corporate website, blog and social media platforms. It was a video pulled out from their CCTV archive showing earlier activities at the airport. 

The footage revealed that Anastasia never came to the airport with a child, nor engaged in any rukus with an official, hence discrediting her previous claims. Following the undisputable evidence brought to light by the international airline, public queer turned to her, and she was labelled a ‘social misfit’, seeking public attention and fame at the expense of a reputable brand. 

Whether or not the airline pressed charges against Anastasia as pushed by the audience, no one knows. But, here’s a bigger picture on how things turned out; what could have escalated into an irreparable damage for a 24-year-old operating and highly reputable international airline was curbed in a matter of minutes. And the main assailant was identified. The effect? Reputations saved, business redeemed, trust restored and most importantly, jobs of thousands saved.

This is obviously a big deal, and here’s why the need for handling social media crisis can not be overemphasised.

The internet is no respecter  for who is right or wrong — it doesn’t wait for your opinion before it reacts. For all we know, issues are quick to trend on social media, become a sensation and viral hit in no time. It becomes highly imperative therefore, to be extremely spontaneous in response to issues that may tarnish your image or brand. You need to be on the lookout for words, comments or messages that pose potential dangers to your brand. 

Beyond being expedient, handling social media crisis involves following through on certain systematic steps and having channels in place through which information could be disseminated. For instance, the digital team of ARTick Airlines could tackle the gravity of its social media escalations via prior communications and relationship building on their already established corporate blog, website or even newsletters.

Before diving into ways of handling social media crisis online, you need to understand that they exist in various forms and must never be underestimated.

Rumours: these are false, unfounded information about you or your brand that spreads on the internet. When this happens, get experts to put measures on your page to address, possibly discard such rumours and prevent it from spreading.

Complains: never despise or downplay the complain of any customer or fan. It’s usually a warning that you need to do something about your product, service or solution. When people perceive what you do as morally wrong and demand you change your behaviour or approach, you’ve got to give a quick attention to such call before it goes out of hand.

Basic steps to handling crises on social media.

Dealing with major public relations issues is inevitable but with the aid of social media you can end a media related crises before it gets too big and dirty to clean up. Some steps to handle media crises on social media would include but are not limited to the following.

Create a war room

An old saying counsels to prepare for war in a time of peace. Why wait for an issue to erupt before you get ready for battle? Create a team dedicated to handling social media crisis. Get your team to be open and upfront as you plan and strategize your response and management in the wake of any crisis. Be aware that brands receive attack and negative criticisms regardless of their notable positive works. So, build a response group to respond to issues openly and objectively. 

Don’t ignore, be engaging

Communicate effectively. Listen attentively. If there’s a question for a particular issue, rather than ignore it, give timelines to when response(s) will be given. Address every single issue raised on media to the extent of even pricing, be detailed as you can. To some extent, letting your audience in on the way you handle critical issues internally goes a long way in determining the future of your brand and your social media channels. Of course the use of influencers cannot be overemphasized. Engage seasoned social media influencers, get them involved and let them tell everyone the true situation of things. Nothing wins the heart of the people than hearing the truth from their role models.

Never ignore any comment, complaint, query or compliment. Your response to these have a way of instilling trust in your audience, and building their confidence to the point that they can vouch for you anyday, anytime. 

Be seen and be real

Prior to the occurence of any crisis, it is advisable for you to get a blog on the site of your brand to enable you publish and promote your opinion. Large companies have blogs on their sites. Like ARTick Airline’s, these sites and social media channels are positioned to listen to the audience, address, curb and prevent media crises from spreading . 

In the advent of any crisis, place information about what and how you are managing the crisis on your website, blog and social media channels. These are places people go to look for and confirm information concerning crisis. If they don’t get updated on  what you’re doing about the crisis on your official site or directly from you, they are likely to lose confidence in your brand. 

It’s important you don’t undermine your values or get personal. Don’t try to be defensive. Communicate with honesty because if you badly handled the crisis it’s going to be bad for your business, dragging down yourbrand for a long time.

Monitor the online environment

Scan the online environment for negative comments and respond appropriately. This is a task never to be ignored. It’s a major way to inform your response to any comment or query online. Social media is fast and not well regulated, you need to know what people are saying about your brand. There are millions of messages shared on social media every day and less than 1% of them is read by millions of people. You should consider everything said online and ensure it’s not a threat to your organisation. Monitoring social sentiments.  And with the aid of Google Alerts and other notification tools you can be automatically updated whenever there are mentions of your brand online or major changes in sentiments. These would help you keep track of mentions related to your business and give you prior warning of any impending crisis while it’s still at the formative stages.

Assess impact 

You have to assess whether or not what you read or hear online is a threat to your organization or could potentially be a crisis. When a comment is made, key considerations you need to make include:

a.) Finding out if the person making such statement is important online. Does a lot of people read his works, does the person have lots of followers, is he an authority, an influencer or may be both?

b.) Evaluate the statement made, find out if it has the potential to fly online? If it does, it’s imperative to take action. Also confirm if the comment have the potential of causing damage or not to your company. And even when it doesn’t have the potential to cause damage, see to it that you respond or get a stakeholder to respond to it quickly.

c.) Having responded, still scan to see if the message is spreading out or has the potential to spread out. Then swing into further action to curtail it.

Just like Anastasia ’s victim, no one brand — no matter how renowned or respected you are —  is above social media crisis. But, there are always ways to handling social media crises and curbing them, right before they eat you up, or even happen at all.


Adedolapo Olisa

Adedolapo Olisa

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