Let’s face it: we live in an era where social media rules the world. It has become a space where every single person is given a voice, even if it’s behind a screen. Like we all know, this is great for brands as it gives them a space to be creative, open and engaging with their consumers. However, you can expect those same consumers to openly express their concern over the love or hatred they have over a brand or product.

So what happens when there’s a product issue or malfunction? Yes, you can expect all hell to break loose – especially on Twitter and Facebook. Yes, you will have people saying that they hate you [the brand] and wish horrible things to happen to you. So what happens when you have a social media crisis on your hands? Do you handle it the same way you would handle a PR or marketing crisis?

It just so happens that the social media strategists at lotus823 went through this exact experience recently. Here are 10 checklist items we identified through the process that allowed us to have a successful outcome:

1. Understand the baseline of your problem.

I’m sure your inbox is going crazy with emails from your internal team, client, PR team and even the CEO. Don’t panic. Take a deep breathe and read each email carefully – especially the ones directly from the client.

2. Only involve the appropriate parties.

The best and most efficient way to avoid 5 gazillion emails is to identify who the key players in this situation will be. Only include those who will be there for the strategy (client, internal team and PR) and those who can really break down and explain what went wrong (product development team).

3. Identify the issue.

Understand what went wrong and familiarize yourself with the tech terms. This is key! You will have people coming at you on social media asking about the problem and chances are they will be throwing tech terms in there. Be prepared and know how to accurately and correctly respond to all the inquiries. ASK QUESTIONS! Will there be a solution? How long will it take? What are we allowed to say as of today?

4. Create an immediate short-term strategy.

Create a quick plan of action. Sometimes social media is more effective than PR. It’s quicker, personal and an immediate response from the brand. Use your online tools. Release a statement on the website addressing the issue. Draft social posts both addressing the brands acknowledgement of the issue and linking back to the statement. Create an email subscription tool on the website to draw people from spamming on social media. The options are endless. Simply choose tactics that will tie in together and make sense for your brand.

5. Assign deadlines, roles and responsibilities.

This may be the most stressful part of all. You’ll only have 2-3 hours to create a short-term strategy and put it into play. This is why it is important to identify all the factors needed and assigning roles & responsibilities to everyone on the team. This ultimately becomes a group effort that you will be leading.

6. Create a long-term strategy.

Have your short-term strategy in place? Don’t sit back and relax just yet. As your current strategy is in play, this is your chance to touch base with the entire team and create a long-term strategy. Create a social plan for the next two months while the hype begins to die down.

7. Measure your activity and results on a daily basis.

Chances are you feel like you’ve been running around like a headless chicken for the past 24 hrs. You’re hard and last minute work has been put in place for some time now. Be prepared to measure your insights across all your channels. Consider: Facebook mentions, Twitter mentions, website referral traffic, sentiment, etc.

8. Understand the consumer.

As the community manager or social media strategist (whatever floats your boat), you need to put yourself in your consumers’ shoes and see things from their perspective. Understand where they are coming from and their frustrations. I’m sure you would also be annoyed if you spent a lot of hard-earned money on something that didn’t work.

9. Step up your customer service game.

That may not be your title, but you have to remember that no one knows who you are. Many people think that it’s a customer service rep sitting behind the screen responding back to their inquires. On top of managing the social channels, keep an email chain going back-and-forth with the head of customer service to help you answer anything that may seem out of your range or knowledge. When responding, be apologetic and understanding. It’s not the consumer’s fault and it’s not your fault. Sometimes, there are faulty products and you just have to roll with the punches.

10. Be transparent.

Remember what I mentioned before about asking your client what you can say and what you can’t say? Being transparent with your consumer might be the best thing you can do, if done correctly. Chances are people will be following up on a daily basis via Twitter. Make sure to answer each time with the most up-to-date information you have from the client. Apologize for the situation, give an update and tell them you will release more info as soon as it comes through. Doing this will make the consumer feel like you actually care and that you’re trying your best to fix the issue.

What steps would you take or have you taken for social media crisis management? Let me know in the comments below!

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