Social Media Crisis
There are several different ways a crisis can be defined. In social media, a public relations crisis is particularly frightening. As best we try to avoid these types of issues, sometimes problems occur that are beyond our control. For companies and organizations that work hard to maintain a presence online, coming under attack from the opposition can start a firestorm that leaves more than your Facebook page in ruins.
It is important to realize and prepare as you work toward building your online community, especially since the bigger the community, the more visible it becomes — which is a good thing, most of the time. But when it leads to people (usually very vocal) who have something to say that isn’t so nice about what your organization strives to achieve with its mission, it can be harmful. Here are three tips to help prevent the haters (people who are against what your organization represents) from derailing your communities.
Have a plan: Make sure your communications plan includes some type of social media crisis strategy. Brainstorm with other members of the marketing and commutations teams to come up with possible issues your “haters” could say about you and in which online forums they would say them (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc).
Once you know the potential issues, you can discuss ways to address them should they occur. By being proactive, you save valuable response time if a social media crisis strikes. When a campaign of one or a dozen people decides to attack your cause on social media, time is of the essence. By having a plan on how to handle a crisis-type situation, you can respond quickly and be part of a conversation instead of watching it unfold on your Facebook wall, left wondering the best way to respond.
Agree on community guidelines: If you don’t have community guidelines in place within your communities, now is a good time to add them. Having guidelines in place justifies deleting comments or blocking people from accessing your fan page or posting comments that your organization finds offensive.
This is a touchy subject because you don’t want to ban anyone who has an opinion that contradicts yours, but there is a clear line between voicing an opinion and being obscene and vulgar. For example, if someone posts a comment attacking another member of the community using curse words, he or she is violating the community guidelines that are posted for all to see. Therefore that comment will be deleted. With guidelines, your community members know where those boundaries are and the consequences (being banned from the page) if they are crossed. This helps all members involved in your communities feel safe while still encouraging conversation.
Know how to respond: Have a discussion with your communications team to be clear on when and how comments that call your mission and organization into question should be answered. Once this process is decided, those who manage or moderate your online communities should be aware of sensitive issues so they can respond properly on behalf of the organization.
However you decide to respond to comments, the most important thing is that you do respond. The worst thing you can do is not participate in dialogue that calls your organization or cause into question. By being present in the conversation, you give courage to other supporters and community members who do support you to also rally behind why your cause is important. Not responding only leaves your supporters wondering if you are listening and your adversaries thinking you have something to hide.
Christina Johns is online media manager at International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.