In recent years, social media have become the primary source of information for a significant part of the population. Unlike in the traditional media, here, they have much greater control over what news reaches them first through the channels of their choice.
Although this is beneficial for both the internet users and your business, you should bear in mind that it can also pose a great risk for your image. Some social media crises may not be that tough and affect only a small portion of your followers, but some may lead to lots of damage and intense scrutiny in popular media.
This imposes a question, can you use your continuity plan to prepare for a social media crisis? With the importance of social media today, you should know how to write a business continuity plan that includes at least some measures used to prevent or reduce the impact of a social media crisis, such as creating two-way communication or incorporating certain damage control tactics. Below, we explore some of the best ideas in detail.
When you distribute social media policies, you help your employees understand what is expected of them when they use social media. This way, you can minimize the risk of a case where someone publishes information that can be considered damaging to your company online.
The policy should be clear and straightforward and contain the following points:
- What type of information should be published and shared, and how?
- What are the possible consequences of breaking the policy?
- What type of accounts should be created and what should not?
- How should the account be used when negative information about your business emerges?
- How should you handle any messages that may appear threatening or against your company’s values?
- Should you take the messages down? If yes, why? When should messages be deleted?
- Should messages be reviewed before being posted? If yes, by whom and in which cases?
Even if you have a social media policy, it may be difficult to control what your employees post online. A crisis response team can help you address this issue by monitoring and managing the published information on social media.
The team should include:
- a person in charge of the team,
- a person in charge of monitoring social media,
- a person in charge of crisis communications,
- a person in charge of risk management,
- a person in charge of internal communications.
Among all these roles, the most challenging one is crisis communications. It involves serving as the interface between the company and the public when something goes wrong.
In order to communicate effectively, the crisis response team needs to have a comprehensive understanding of their organization’s culture and its past experiences with similar crises. The team should also have a clear plan of action and a direct line of communication to key decision-makers.
If you do encounter a social media crisis, one of the first things you need to do is to assess the situation. This involves the following questions:
- What information is being shared? By whom?
- When did it happen? Does the information describe a past event or an ongoing problem?
- Are the words used appropriate? Is the tone used appropriate?
- Is there any way to resolve the situation quickly and effectively? If yes, what is it? If not, what should be done next?
In many cases, you can resolve a social media crisis by addressing problems promptly and replying to messages. You can also remove any damaging content from your site yourself.
In other cases, however, a crisis response team must take action and work closely with other teams to find a solution. The response team may need to:
- contact the author of the post or comment,
- issue a statement or an apology,
- remove the negative content from the site,
- transmit a message from their social media accounts to inform followers about the problem and how it will be resolved.
If the crisis is severe enough, you may need to hold a press conference or issue a press release. This can minimize damage to your company’s image and help you stabilize the situation.
Social media are important channels for promoting your business and helping it grow. However, you should bear in mind that your competitors can also use these channels to spread harmful or misleading information about your business. Moreover, you or people within your company can make mistakes, too. You need to anticipate this and take preventative measures to ensure that you are not negatively affected.
To help you do this, you should include a potential social media crisis in your business continuity plan; create a social media policy and a crisis response team. Moreover, even if you do not experience a social media crisis, you should still draft an internal procedure for dealing with such situations, as you never know when they may occur.