05:13 AM

5 tips to get you through a crisis using social media


A crisis within an organization can trigger impassioned online discussions and could negatively affect your reputation. In such circumstances, how the organizations weathers the storm depends largely on how it presents itself online. Here are 5 tips you can use to ensure it all ends well.

When a crisis hits, it is important for an organization to have a protocol in place. The protocol should not only focus on how to handle and cope with a crisis, but should also contain a clear communication flow. Who will be your key spokespeople and have you set out a clear strategy? Among the many communication tools that can be used during a crisis, social media is one of the most important ones because it offers the opportunity for an immediate, concise, and far-reaching response. But if misused, things on social media can take a turn for the worse. The question remains – will using social media in crisis communication deliver you an advantage?

The thin line between positive and negative

The introduction of social media enabled people to respond easily to almost anything online. A viral meme, video, or tweet can appear instantly on the Internet. When a crisis occurs emotions can run high, which can make it difficult to manage online sentiment. All eyes are on you and with every step you take, you carry the risk of your message being misinterpreted and subsequently upsetting your customers or the public. There are options though to make sure discussions don’t escalate and you can escape the crisis without too much damage.

Social media offers real-time insight into the mood of your audience, which enables you to interact with people. When a negative claim is made about an organization, it becomes important to respond quickly. When you are the subject of a joke, you can steer public opinion in your favor by participating in the humor through self-mockery, while simultaneously diffusing any inaccurate statements about your organization. Wendy’s, who have become notorious for their humorous social media presence, were quick to use some tongue-in-cheek humor to reinforce that their beef patties are never frozen earlier this year.

However, when words from your organization or its representatives are negatively received, use social media to limit the damage. Following the USA’s victory over Ghana during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Delta Airlines tweeted a photo of the Statue of Liberty (representing the US) next to an image of a giraffe (representing Ghana) – but there are no giraffes in Ghana, as Twitter users were quick to point out. Delta promptly deleted the tweet and tweeted an apology.


5 Tips

There are many examples of companies that either managed to save face during a crisis, or conversely succumbed to the criticism of the masses. From executive level, down to individuals who work directly with clients, there is still a lot of ignorance regarding the importance and power of social media. Here are five necessary tips on using social media during a crisis, for all members of your organization:

  1. By reacting quickly, you can be involved in an online discussion from the beginning, and ensure things stay in hand. When the discussion is at its most intense moment, the reach of our message is the highest.

  2. Use the social media channels where discussions are taking place, to provide clarity through engagement, and the actions you as a company will take in response to the crisis. This enables you to use the problem to create a strategy that will turn the crisis into a positive PR opportunity.

  3. Maintain good relations with relevant contacts on social media and approach them as soon as possible to make sure your side of the story is being heard as well. Building and and maintaining a relationship does take quite some time and effort, so make sure that you have enough resources to do this.

  4. Create a manual with ‘rules of engagement’ that describe how to react via the different communication channels in a crisis. Take some time to investigate internally how your colleagues or employees would react in specific situations. Create scenarios and practice your responses to accurately simulate your team’s crisis management.

  5. Think about the role social media has in your communication department. Keep the advantages (speed and reach) and disadvantages (not full story and oversimplified) in mind. For example, in a tweet, refer to an article on your website which offers you more space to communicate a full message.




A full set of tools can be used for communicating during and following a crisis. Adequate preparation is one, but there are many other aspects that can influence how the crisis influenced the organization. Do you want to make sure your organization is ‘ready for a crisis’? Download our checklist to help get ready with all of the things you can prepare in advance.

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