We’re all aware that not everything in business runs smoothly 100% of the time, no matter how prepared or organized a company is. Mistakes happen and with the new world of viral media, the public demands accountability. Some cases are more egregious than others, but make no mistake that all social media crises should be handled with care.
Neal Topf, the President of Callzilla, recently lead a webinar hosted by SOCAP International with top industry leaders to discuss this very topic. Managing a social media crisis can seem like a daunting task if unprepared, but together we put together a framework to help guide any business through the preparation, a crisis in progress, and the aftermath.
Obstacles to Consider When Handling a Social Media Crisis
- Increased volume that’s almost impossible to forecast for in a staffing plan.
- Isolated incidents that affect a small group can become national or global news.
- An issue like a recall where you need to manage volume from the customers who are affected, and also volume from those seeking answers/accountability for the crisis.
- The emergence of new social channels, as people may be talking about your brand even if you’re not active on those platforms.
- A “positive crisis” could also present itself, with increased volume or sales as a result of positive press or social mentions.
- Any crisis can become a social media crisis.
Addressing These Obstacles
- Since it’s unlikely you’ll have advance notice on the uptick in volume, it’s best to have a plan in place for scalability. Keep your contact center focused on day-to-day issues and keep a 3rd party or separate contact center on reserve that can step in to handle the extra volume at a moment’s notice.
- Don’t discount the power of social media, most crises that happen today have a social media component to them. Invest in listening tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social so your team can track your company’s mentions across multiple channels. Callzilla is equipped to handle this ongoing task if there isn’t capacity for it in your in-house center.
- How do you win a game where there are no clear rules? Social media is complex, so it’s all about collaboration between PR, Legal, Customer Service, and Marketing. Leverage your strengths and then come together with a single message where everyone owns that same narrative.
- Have a proactive plan in place, or a playbook.
Social Media Crisis Management Playbook
Although action plans may vary, experienced industry leaders agree that a detailed playbook is necessary for addressing a social media crisis. A playbook is a step-by-step process that guides your employees through a situation out of the ordinary. We compiled a list of suggestions to include:
- Since potential crisis scenarios are so variable, it’s best to provide guidelines as opposed to a list of rules to follow. Compile a list of questions that take your employees through a workflow based on the components of that specific crisis. This should be a living document that is frequently updated as social media etiquette evolves.
- Define the different threat levels. For example, one company refers to it as a “situation” until the scenario reaches a certain level of mentions, in which case it becomes a “crisis”.
- The playbook should include instructions for each threat level, or guidelines on whether something needs to be watched or addressed and a system to track it. For example, if social mentions are isolated to Twitter DMs your team can simply track the situation, but as soon as it moves to a public forum, you’ll want to guide your team to escalate to the appropriate team member for support.
- The department in charge of internal communication (usually HR) should proactively remind employees of your company’s social media policy, and also send out an email reminder as the crisis unfolds. There should be a defined policy for both the company and individuals. For example, if employees have the company listed on their personal social media profiles, they must conduct themselves in a certain way when posting and responding both publicly and privately. No political or religious discussions, etc. If the employee is giving an opinion related to their job, they must specify that the opinion is of their own volition and not on behalf of the company.
- Define the owner of the crisis playbook. We recommend creating an incident team or a “core crisis team” with members from each department. The incident team meets for every crisis, and then depending on the type of crisis, the appropriate department head will take the lead.
- Organize a crisis simulation to ensure all involved parties are trained and understand the playbook. This test will allow you to see what you’re missing in your playbook when new scenarios are presented.
- The best plan is a proactive plan; If you are in a reactive position, your playbook may be developed with an emotional or irrational take in mind.
Tracking and Reporting a Social Media Crisis
These extenuating circumstances may require you to think outside of the box when it comes to tracking and reporting metrics during a crisis. In addition to your typical metrics, like average response time and CSAT, here are some measurements to consider:
- Number of impressions, likes, and shares. This will help you define the level of virality, and your employees can cross reference with the playbook.
- Track consumer engagement separate from crisis impressions if possible.
- Monitor which platforms have crisis mentions, and which channels customers are reaching out on (phone, chat, email, or strictly social).
- For a recall, track what % of the volume are customers affected by the recall vs the general public seeking accountability.
- Document volume spike details somewhere permanent so future colleagues have historical data to reference.
- Break your data out by social platform. The habits and demographics of each platform are unique, so your crisis plan may change depending on the social app. For example, on Twitter people often tweet directly at a brand for help, whereas on TikTok users are sharing more for the purpose of social commentary. In this scenario, you might reach out directly to the twitter user to solve their problem, and the strategy on TikTok would be to address the crisis publicly.
Managing an Active Social Media Crisis
- Use a system like the Eisenhower Matrix to help your employees prioritize tasks. This productivity, prioritization, and time-management framework is designed to help you categorize responsibilities according to their urgency and importance.
- Bring in a “Fix This” whiteboard for on-demand task tracking and organization. This can be any blank space where front-line workers can quickly jot down questions that need answers or additional issues that pop up. A Supervisor assigned to monitoring the board can address each item and compile a crisis FAQ document that all agents can use moving forward.
- Don’t forget to keep your employees in mind in the midst of the crisis. This is an emotionally taxing time for your staff based on the volume alone, but also with the heated conversations they’re handling. Take care of them by staggering shifts, getting them extra help from a crisis team, automating as many tasks as possible, and providing food and water on the floor.
It’s natural to feel relief once a crisis dies down and move on, but don’t forget to reconvene with your team for a debrief. This meeting should include team members from each level of your organization so you can receive honest feedback on the playbook and adjust as needed. You should also discuss what pieces were handled well, and what could have been handled better. Everything should be documented for future reference.
September is National Preparedness Month, so now would be a good time to start building the playbook for your company to be presented during that month. Make it a yearly process to ensure your playbook is continually updated, and new team members are trained!
Contact us if you’re in need of social media management, social listening, or scalable staffing support. Callzilla has successfully assisted various clients in their time of need, and we are here to help you prepare for the unexpected.
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