Containing the Explosion and Putting out the Fire: Salvaging Social Media Catastrophes

Posted: Feb 20, 18

There are many sparks that could ignite the fuse leading to the bomb named ‘social media disaster’. These include careless E-mails, misinformation on your social media pages, misdirected marketing campaigns, sensational but insensitive taglines and so on. With the reach of social media comes the onus of keeping these multiple frontiers error-free. The web can be an unforgiving place, where the traces of accidents remain in the fine lattice of its binary code. How then should companies contain and salvage a social media catastrophe when it strikes?


1.    Build a strong crisis management team

As the saying goes, “always be prepared for the unexpected”. With large amount of data being transferred and content being published daily, a social media crisis in any scale is inevitable. Set up a crisis management squad skilled in assessing the potential minefields that compromise your brand image and company.

According to Korena keys, the founder and CEO of KeyMedia Solutions, the team should assign members to be responsible for responding to various parties (marketing, public relations, agency, management).  Recommended responses should also be formulated beforehand, including the message, tone and location of response.

After that, rehearse the solutions formulated. Have a reliable team that remains active even during after-work hours and on holiday as to minimize the damage of disasters striking at any hour.


2.    Cognizance of the types of crisis

On a related note to the crisis management team’s anticipatory plans, being aware of the types of crisis could lead to improved vigilance. According to Social Media Today, social media crisis comes in 4 levels of severity and scale.

“Level 1 – Self-inflicted”

This is the lightest degree of damage, where error results from carelessness or the team’s overlooking of fine details.

“Level 2 – Unanticipated Data Error”

This type of mistakes are usually unforeseen ones in the financial or technical aspect.

To most, this may raise a red flag concerning the company’s effectiveness. To the minority of the more forgiving audiences, rare errors in these “complex systems of leviathan proportions” is largely inevitable, placing it at level 2.

“Level 3 – Public Misinformation”

This type of error concerns incorrect information dispensed by the company. Mere carelessness or unforeseen circumstances no longer excuse these mistakes as the information ought to be carefully processed and checked before coming from the company themselves. Such errors heavily penalize the professionalism and credibility of the firm, causing a drop in the public’s trust in them. The damage done here is fatal, but hold your breath for what’s to come.

“Level 4 – Outside Force”

This encompasses an attack from external, malicious parties that breach the company’s security. By intruding into the company’s servers and databases, they jeopardize private data of the customers.

Unlike the errors of levels 1 to 3, the crisis at level 4 compromises more than the company’s image. Customers are directly affected and implicated by the lapses in security. The sheer scale of impact of such errors places it at the highest level of danger.



3.    Turn it into an ingenious marketing strategy

When it’s all been said and done, does it signal an irrevocable end? Not necessarily so. With some innovation, risk-taking, luck and impeccable planning, the company’s misstep can be maneuvered into a refreshing marketing strategy! According to Chad White of Marketing Land, this tactful turn of events does not exclude the orthodox apology, but includes one strong and compelling reason for your readers to forgive you. This reason takes the form of an attractive offer or reward. Endearing images of animals, big discounts, and self-directed humor make a tactful appearance to dilute the negative feelings evoked by the error.

Why would these tactics work? It reminds your readers you are first and foremost a group of humans, rather than a faceless organization. Executed to perfection, such apology-turned-PR-strategies can establish closer relations between you and your customer. It also shows your customers the vibrant and humorous side of your company!

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4.    Offer a frank and genuine apology

Unfortunately, for mistakes in level 2 to 4, the strategy above loses its magic. They can resolve lower-level errors with negligible impacts, such as those in level 1, but do not resolve more damning consequences that require a more serious approach. As such, a prudent choice is a prompt, straight-forward and sincere apology that clears confusion and appeals to the goodwill of your audiences.

According to Jay Baer on Convince and Convert, it’s wise to follow a strong acknowledgment of the problem with “social media water” that extinguishes the “social media fire”. This means addressing the outbreak on the very platform that it has occurred on. For crises of greater scales, Baer suggests a ‘Crisis FAQ” that breaks down the chaos into manageable sections. Such an appearance of organization and control works towards redeeming the company and its failure to keep things regulated during the catastrophe.


5.    Reflection

As the crisis winds down, take stock of your company and the damage that has been incurred. More importantly, recognize the origins of the crisis, and the measures that could nip the problem at its bud.

Since humans can’t be inerrant, leverage the precision afforded by technology. Use monitoring tools that can assist you in managing social media channels, capture complaints and feedback quickly, observe industry trends, and stay on top of the competition! Paid and free choices are available online, the former being brands such as Brandwatch and Sysomos, with the latter being companies such as Cyfe and SimplyMeasured.

Above all, nothing replaces the values of vigilance and watchfulness. Nevertheless, with each crisis comes new experience and lessons to enrich your crisis management team and company.


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