Roughly 70-90% of your customers are on social media, and becoming increasingly vocal about their interactions with brands. Remember musician Dave Carroll’s ‘United Breaks Guitars’? (and that was just the start for them). Prospective customers will be watching carefully and making decisions about whether they want to do business with you. But 92.5% of companies are letting their customers down on social media.

67% of Twitter’s 310 million active users have reached out on the platform to a brand to get help or service. That’s nearly 208 million people, 53% of whom expect a response within 1 hour. Shockingly, 58% of those customers reaching out don’t even get a response. This will cause 38% of them to have a negative perception about that brand and 60% to tweet about it.

A social media strategy allows you to set goals and objectives with which you can measure impact, so crisis planning should absolutely be a part of it. It is so often the case that we see companies – large and small – desperately trying to put one together whilst a drama unfolds. A recent case in point, a certain mobile giant that failed to acknowledge or respond to the issue (one that had harmed customers, blown devices up and caused a recall to be issued) for an entire week. When they did, it was cold and poorly executed, causing further public outrage on social media and even leading to competitor ads mocking the whole debacle. A crisis plan already in place could have prevented most negative comments and feelings. They would have been listening to all the channels, so been able to spot the problem coming, known to respond sooner as the pot boiled, and they could have diagnosed the product malfunction sooner. They lost billions, and the havoc wreaked on their brand image via social media was irreparable. Don’t be like them:


Have a plan

A crisis will arise sooner or later, and your social management team will be on the front line. If you aren’t yet on any social channels, it isn’t too late to start (you’re earlier than you think, compared to most, shockingly, based on the Rational Interaction report). And social media can in fact be a valuable tool for effectively handling crisis situations, in spite of how daunting it can seem after having seen companies destroyed by vocal angry twitter users. Plan ahead, and think about the potential crises that could happen to you, then make time to plan your defence. Be proactive, rather than reactive. Having all of that up your sleeve will increase employee confidence and speed up your response time when it does hit.


Keep calm & address it immediately

Take the chance right away to admit mistakes and show how much you care. And not with canned responses. Be authentic and transparent. People are much more likely to forgive those who demonstrate sincerity. Whether it’s a faulty airbag that needs recalling or a bad batch of baby food, any issue will magnify if left unaddressed, and rumours will start to circulate, causing even further potential brand damage. Reaction time is critical. One recent survey shows that, on average, 40% of customers complaining on social media expect a response within an hour, and 32% expect a response within 30 minutes, but an Eptica study showed that the average response time from brands on Twitter was 7 hours and 12 minutes. All brands should be strategising like Nordstrom, who recently responded to a twitter complaint in 17 seconds and demonstrated how in every crisis, there is the opportunity to come out on top from complaint handling. As well as reaction speed, it’s also about the way you react. You need to be on the channels your customer is using, so your approach must be data-driven.

Monitor everything

We’ll say it again: it’s all in the data. You should also be planning to evaluate the crisis. Those rumours and negative comments can all be detected with the right technological tools. Knowing how to proceed comes from listening to what’s happening and how people are feeling. Tools like Clarabridge’s will help – you’ll be able to keep track of mentions across platforms and automate ‘we’re sorry, we’re working on it’ replies, that redirect afflicted customers to an official statement. Look at your influencers and find out where your loyal brand advocates are so you can let them know they can still trust you, and for good reason. When things are rough, these influencers can be very useful in ensuring that no one further turns off your brand.


Move fast  

When something terrible happens relating to a product or service of yours, the last thing affected customers want to see during a crisis is a sales letter for the new model, focused on increasing the company’s financial bottom line, or a scheduled post about winning an award for quality, for example. Be sensitive to feelings and content that will only make things worse, and be very careful of tone. Put ads and scheduled social media content on hold to show customers that you’re taking matters seriously and that it’s your main priority, particularly if you must keep the public updated. It will give your brand some power to steer conversations and tone and mitigate damages. Clarabridge’s latest eBook In Case of Emergency: 6 Rules of Social Media Crisis Management details essential best practices for planning and implementing your social crisis management procedures.

Learn from your mistakes and build a plan that provides your business with the right tools to handle the worst-case scenarios and limit loss of customers and future revenue. But don’t just respond to problems and complaints; take every opportunity to engage with your community, about the good and bad. There’s nothing bad about increased engagement.