Managing Crisis through Social Media

“To be effective in crisis management in the digital age means being able to use social media strategically. There is no crisis management today without a full understanding of how to use new media to listen to conversations around your brand in real-time, and understand what you do and don’t need to respond to.” – Chris Syme

Everyone who is using social media in one way or another knows that the visibility, timeliness and contiguity of this powerful platform are both its boon and bane. Boon for those who use it judiciously and a bane for those who underestimate its potency. When used well and to its full capacity, companies can be adept even at managing crisis through social media. When a company is faced with a crisis in the form of a misunderstanding or miscommunication, the reach and visibility of social media allows them to dispel the clouds of doubt and uncertainty by just one well-crafted message. Using effective content, companies can ‘blast’ their message to not just their customers but for all those who are connected via the social media channel they choose. Companies can immediately display their confidence and strength of taking responsibility and ownership of whatever has gone wrong and use social media to make it right. Managing crisis through social media is perhaps the speediest and most effective methods that companies can use to prevent irreversible damage to their reputation and in turn their profitability. This is probably one of the prime reasons that social media has gained so much popularity and a stronghold with companies.

  • Managing crisis for any business is extremely crucial. With social media word of mouth spreads fast, wide and furiously to more people than any other communication channel. Before a displeased customer spreads unkindly words about an unpleasant experience, a company can use social media to apologize and also make it up to the customer in question. This kind of ‘visible’ service recovery often has people raving about how great a company and the customer service is. Managing crisis through social media, of such a nature, also coerces the customer to give the company another chance without making too much of a fuss. Re-gained customers often are better brand ambassadors too!
  • Managing crisis through social media requires that a company knows and understands the ‘clout’ and potential of its customers. Putting off a customer who may have a large following and then not pressing recovery into action, could be the start of the end of your company. We have learned that not all customers are equal – it is therefore essential for companies to understand each customer well and provide high levels of customer service to all. One bad experience will most certainly be fired up and spread across the visible platform of social media – recovery from which becomes near impossible.
  • As mentioned social media is ‘here and now’ – immediate – all about having the precise timing. Managing crisis through social media therefore too is a matter of accurate timing. Silence and lack of response is most definitely not an option on social media. Any communication to mitigate a crisis must be immediate – the sooner your company can let the customers know that they are handling the situation and work is underway to address the issues, the better it will be. Customers learn to depend on and trust a company that is always alert and ready to dissipate doubts and deal with issues immediately. Managing a crisis through social media will help customers understand what they can expect and companies that proactively let customers know about possible service delays or a potential error are better placed in the customer’s ‘good books’. Being such a visible platform social media allows companies to let almost all their customers know of any impending crisis and also provide regular updates on what is being done to manage it. Regular communication with customers during a crisis situation reduces the amount of stress they undergo and allows them to be confident in the belief that your company will tide over the crisis and they would not be at any risk. Wouldn’t you like to do business with a company that takes the trouble to put you at ease?
  • Even if the irate customer starts a discussion and even posts some seemingly unreasonable comments, managing crisis through social media is about taking this conversation and placing it under your control. Ensuring control at the start of this potentially disruptive conversation will prevent possible malefactors from devising their own conversations, leading to customers believing something that your company never said. Keeping control of the discussion will ensure that your customer trusts only the communication sent from your company and no other source of ‘information’.  Also ensure that what you communicate is a ‘conversation’ and not a one-sided talking down. Give your customer and others the opportunity to react and respond. It is only when the customer expresses their views can your company actually listen. Listening allows transparency and honesty in communication and will allow your customer to revert to believing you sooner.
  • Not managing crisis through social media or any other channel could seriously backfire on your company. It serves to make your customer angrier and possibly even decide to take ‘revenge’ on your company by some means or the other. Feeling ignored is probably one of the surest triggers for customer ire that could lead to a huge wave of negativity and irrepressible ire from the ‘social circles’ of the customer.
  • Managing crisis through social media lets customers know that you are a transparent, honourable and responsible company. They will believe that your company does not place blame but rather focuses on sorting out problems for customers without delay. Your company must also ensure that they thank the customer for providing their feedback, assure them that action is being taken and provide a speedy resolution of the issue. Not just the customer, but other ‘visitors’ to your social media site will appreciate your efforts and some could possibly become customers in the not so distant future. In the words of Damon Richards – “Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
  • Managing a crisis through social media, or in any manner, must have closure. That means at the end of it, customers must know what they need to do post the crisis. Ensure that your company gives them precise and clear instructions on what they should do and what they can expect from you. Customers hate to be left in limbo – provide them with doable tips to help minimise the impact of the crisis and also tips on what they can do in the interim, while a permanent solution is being put in place.
  • While managing a crisis on social media, companies must be exceedingly cautious of how they manage unreasonable and uncalled for criticism and unfair words. There will be many occasions when this could happen, but companies must remain polite and rational at all times and under no circumstances must they react aggressively or in a manner that can be construed as opposed to good customer service. Do not threaten customers with legal action or any other punitive action irrespective of how compelling the situation may seem. Doing so could not just serve to alienate the customer in question, but also dent your reputation with others keeping tabs on the conversation. Remain calm and professional at all times such that you do not attract negative comments and publicity beyond the original problem at hand.

A person’s reputation and a business’ reputation is the starting point for all interactions. Customers are drawn to a company when they hear ‘good things’ about the company. Reputation is fragile, like trust, and does take a very long time to build when damaged.  Managing crisis on social media could be the differentiation between causing irreparable damage versus repairing the slight damage to your company’s reputation and the trust factor for customers. Use the help of a professional to get across great content for the communication to be sent out and to remain aligned with the expectations of your customers under all circumstances.

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