7 Ways to Make a Social Media Crisis Worse

Social media crises can happen to the best of brands, and even the best of them don’t always respond in the best manner. They instead fan the flames further until not only a single building is burning but the entire street. They are then faced with the reality of trying to extinguish a fire that has gone horribly and utterly out of control.

Social Media Crisis Worse

Here are seven ways brands make a social media crisis worse and tips for keeping the fire small:

Mistake 1. Give an answer if you don’t have one.

Human nature wants to fix things. It wants to give an answer when it receives a question. Brands need to ignore those tendencies when they don’t yet know how they’re going to resolve a situation or don’t have a definitive answer. They’re better off saying “I don’t know” than providing misleading or inaccurate information.

Mistake 2. Give complex answers or apologies.

Keep your answers short, sweet, and to the point. Dabbling in complexity almost always lends itself to attempts at explanations or justifications. Do not, do not do that. Also don’t be overly apologetic. It reads as browbeating at best and insincere at worst.

Mistake 3. Edit or delete a mistake.

Unless it’s so heinous that editing or deleting is necessary, editing or deleting your mistake will only fuel the ire of some audience members. Not editing or deleting it will enrage others. You really can’t win this fight, but it’s better to let the mistake stand than to appear that you’re trying to cover it up. Besides, if you made a mistake, it likely has already been screen-captured, retweeted or memorialized and shared in some other way.

Mistake 4. Put your head in the sand.

Ostrich - Social Media CrisisYou are not an ostrich. If a social media crisis arises, you have to meet the situation head-on.

Not dealing with an issue immediately is a recipe for outraged tweets, blog posts and memes. Do your best to keep those things in check. You won’t be able to stop all of them, but addressing the crisis as it happens will alleviate some of them.

Mistake 5. Lie.

This point is related to other ones found in this list, but it’s worth reiterating. Lies have a way of being found out. Be forthcoming about the mistake you’ve made and what you’re doing to resolve the situation and prevent similar ones in the future.

Mistake 6. Blame the intern.

Blaming the intern only makes you look like a dolt and makes your audience wonder if you know what you’re doing. A related point: don’t have the intern manage your social media. Social is a long-term business, and your intern – no matter how wonderful and good he or she is – only has a short-term stake in your business game.

Mistake 7. Get contentious.

Don’t argue with your audience. Fires turn wild when brands engage with their audiences in such a manner. Don’t follow suit. Seek to extinguish the flames.

Want to survive a social media crisis without losing your brand to the flames? Keep these seven points in mind, and you’ll survive. You will emerge a little worse for wear, but you’ll remember what it’s like to be burned, and you’ll do your best to avoid social media crises in the future.

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Images: USFWS/Southeast, Doug88888 (Creative Commons)

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