Putting Out a Social Media Crisis: A Plan of Action and How to Deal With Trolls

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  • 9/25/2018

    What spreads and goes viral faster than news about a new Taylor Swift album or a meme of a professional football player retiring at half time?

    The answer: a social media crisis.

    Social media isn’t always the friend everyone loves but rather is the crazy, drama-starting, fire-burning enemy making things go wrong. Sometimes, a social media crisis will ignite a spark that starts a fire. When that happens, you are going to need a good hose (plan) to put it out—and fast.

    Let’s start first by defining what a social media crisis is and then go into action steps to take.

    A social media crisis is when a small but negative issue affecting a user or group of users crops up on your channel or channels and has the potential to spiral into a full-blown internet crisis. Also, social media trolls on a brand page can be considered a crisis because others may join in with that person and express unhappiness with something your brand has done.

    Some recent examples are:

    • United Airlines: When the plane was overbooked and there was a video of passengers being forced off the plane, social media helped add gasoline to the fire with many people sharing the video and saying they would never fly United again.
    • Adidas: After using the subject line “You’ve survived the Boston Marathon” in a promotional email, Adidas received a lot of backlash for not being sensitive to the bombing survivors.
    • Pepsi: An ad for a global message of unity, peace and understanding with Kendall Jenner sparked criticism saying the ad trivialized the recent protests for Black Lives Matter.
    • Nike: Last but not least, Nike’s "Dream Crazy" ad. There was a lot of backlash on social media for featuring Collin Kaepernick. Kaepernick had caused a lot of controversy by kneeling during the National Anthem before professional football games. Now, people are protesting the buying and wearing of Nike products.

    Now, you may be getting a little heated remembering all of these items, but that’s not what this is about. This is about how those brands dealt with the situations on social media and what we, as marketers, can learn from it.

    So, how do you come up with a social media crisis plan for an “in case of emergency” situation when you hope to never have to deal with it? Simple, follow these steps:

    Step 1: Identify the situation.

    This is the most important step! You will need to determine how big of an issue you’re dealing with, who has caught wind of it and if this is something that can spread fast with other customers or a one-off situation.

    Step 2: Acknowledge the situation on social media.

    If the situation started on Facebook, acknowledge it on Facebook. Once addressed, then you can make a comment on other channels if needed. If the situation has been contained on Facebook, there is no need to cause fuss on the other social channels unless it is brought up.

    Step 3: Be sorry—and mean it.

    America is the land of forgiveness. We’ve forgiven Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton, United Airlines, Coca-Cola and a rogues' gallery of corporate and individual miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. You’ll be forgiven, too, if you say you’re sorry and mean it. Your customers are astute and know when your apology is insincere (*cough cough* BP *cough cough*).

    Step 4: Know when to stop replying or take it offline.

    Social media crisis management isn’t about winning; it’s about damage control. Some people will be so angry you’re not going to convince them of anything. Do not get in an online argument… ever.

    Remember the “rule of three.” Never send a third reply. A third reply is an argument not an answer. On the third reply, you take it offline.

    The rule of three is a great segue on how to deal with social media trolls over a crisis. The rule of three applies to trolls also. The troll is someone who wants attention for something because they did not get his or her way the first time. Instead of handling the incident like an adult, they revert to being “a keyboard warrior” and make unneeded comments on your social posts.

    Dealing with trolls 101
    1. Evaluate what he or she is posting and where.

    2. Send a private message to the poster.
      • Example: “Hello, (Name). We are sorry you feel this way about (the situation). At (Company Name), we pride ourselves in (demonstrated corporate values). If you would like more information or to talk to someone about the situation, please call (Person at 111-111-1111).”

    3. Reply to comments stating you have reached out in a private message, and if they have any other questions or comments, invite users to call the number in the message.
      • Example: “Hey, (Name). We’d love to have a conversation with you on this topic. We have sent you a message with the contact information of our (manger or whatever position will handle this). Please reach out at your earliest convenience.”
      • If the person replies again, comment one more time, remembering the rule of three.

    4. After this, leave everything as it is. Leave the comments up and your reply to comments for a few days to a week.

    5. As an option, after the next week or so, once the conversation has been over and silent, you may hide the comments on the post if you would like. But your comments are your proof of handling the situation well.

    6. If the poster starts again, repeat steps 1-4.

    So, when it comes to dealing with trolls and crisis management, be sure to look at everything with clear eyes and never fight fire with fire, even if the poster is wrong or just making a scene.

    About the author::Danyelle Kupfer is the Social Media Specialist at thunder::tech. She helps plan, execute and manage various clients’ social media accounts and thunder::tech marketing productions. She enjoys her dog, ice cream and loves dad jokes more than dads.
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