How to defuse social media nightmares at your business

Follow me on (insert various social media platforms here)! How many times do we hear or read that in a day? No matter how hard we try, it’s impossible to escape the reach of social media. Businesses have also hopped on the social media bandwagon to build their brands and reach out to potential customers – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? Along with other technology risks that businesses face, there are specific social media risks to be considered. What if you get negative comments or trolls on your social media pages? What if you’re facing a social media disaster? You need to have a plan to deal with the negativity you’ll inevitably find online.

We’ve got some tips to help you create an effective crisis/damage control plan for your social media and online presence. The trick is to be ready for a disaster before it happens – scrambling never did anyone any good.

1. Form a team.

Your business should have a team of people (or one person) that handles your social media and online presence. These people can be the foundation of your social media crisis team. Keep in mind that your team might not be just in your marketing department – you can recruit others who would have valuable input or who could help your social media gurus respond to certain situations. Social media is a team effort!

Form a social media team that will handle negative online content.

2. Discuss what-ifs.

You need to have a plan for how to tackle different situations. It might help to create some sort of a chart or outline that details different types of comments and how to handle them. But that first requires brainstorming a base of likely comments that need to be addressed. For example, is the comment about a negative experience? Is it just a trolling comment? Is it a rant? The type of comment will influence how you respond.

3. Work out the what-ifs.

You need to step-by-step your response to these responses. Everyone on your team needs to have a role, and everyone should be clear on what their role is. When a negative comment goes up, is it something that the team member who notices it can handle? When should they involve a manager or supervisor? What comments should just be left alone (but still monitored)? That way instead of agonizing over the “What do we do?” question you already have the answer conveniently planned out.

4. Respond quickly.

Social media moves at light speed. Actually, sometimes faster than light speed. So if you’re not on top of your social media account and don’t realize that something bad has happened, you might not respond quick enough to curb it before it gets out of control. That’s why you need to always keep an eye on your accounts.

The situation might just get worse the longer you don’t respond, which is why having a plan that you can execute quickly is so important. Plus, silence on the part of your business could be perceived as meaning you don’t care about the complaint or problem that was voiced. The negativity could spread and go bonkers.

You might want to set up an alert system that will tell you when people interact with your business online.

Social media moves at light speed.

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5. Be consistent.

Everyone should follow the same plan when it comes to managing a social media crisis. If you have a consistent, easy-to-follow plan it’ll help your response be timely, appropriate, and hopefully enough to diffuse the situation. Train all your team members so that they know the plan inside and out.

6. Consider the medium of the negative comment.

You might want to think about how the user commented or mentioned your business. It helps if you contain it to one channel – for example, to keep a negative Facebook post constrained to Facebook.

7. Use an appropriate tone.

How your business handles the negative remark says a lot about your character and your integrity. If you handle a criticism in a professional, courteous way, you’ll be better off because people will see that you’re being polite and doing what you can to remedy the problem. If the information that the user has put forward is inaccurate, be tactful in clearing up any misunderstandings.

Make sure that you’re civil and polite in your response. Be genuine – don’t use a cookie-cutter response for every post. Tailor your response to the comment and address the user’s specific concerns. Make sure that they understand that you’re taking measures to correct the problem, and tell them how you plan to do so. If they know that they’re opinion hasn’t been ignored, they might calm down.

8. Continue to train your employees and talk about social media.

You can’t just let your beautifully crafted social media crisis plan gather dust on the shelf, right? You need to continue to discuss strategies and procedures for dealing with social media. Don’t make it a one-time thing – social media has some serious power, and it’s not to be trifled with. While you’re at it, you may want to touch on how to recognize some common online scams and teach employees how to avoid online phishing.

Continually monitor your social media accounts.

Social media has many advantages. But there are risks with it, too, that add on to the other cyber risks businesses face – and if you’re very concerned about your cyber risks, you can consider cyber liability insurance. Make a plan so that you can respond to the negative comments or slights that might come your way. Make sure that you know how to handle social media criticism appropriately.

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