Your Company is in a Social Network Meltdown. Now What?

You have rules, double-checks and plans for every possible situation but still it happens. Someone in your company says the wrong thing on Twitter, or an angry customer pours out her frustrations on Facebook and suddenly you’re in the middle of a social media storm.

Whether it was an unintentional slip or a purposeful jab, the first thing you and everyone in your company needs to do is take your hands off the keyboard. Firing back any kind of response instantly is bound to get you in deeper trouble. As hard as it is to do, the first step is resisting.

Next, use Google and social media search tools to track the problem back to the source. Really listen to what people are saying; are they responding to a lie that got out of hand? A change in the way your company does business? Or an unflattering remark by an employee? Put into practice your social media listening skills.

If the source of the problem is a customer service issue, put together a team to make it right, then quickly respond to the original problem. Try to get a phone number or email for the injured party then do everything in your power to not only fix the problem, but go a step further.

If the problem is employee based, post an apology on all company social media channels. Assure the public that the person was not speaking on behalf of the company, and a superior is looking into the situation. If you choose to fire the responsible party, check with HR and/or a lawyer before disclosing that information in public. People will want to know but it could be grounds for a lawsuit.

Here are a few more tips to get through the crisis:

1. Present a clear and united front
Tell employees not to respond to social media comments or any press requests. All responses must come from a single point of contact. If the situation warrants it, create a webpage with links to any pertinent information and share the link through social media.

2. Remove any pre-scheduled marketing messages
A Buy 1 Get 1 Free Tweet that shows up in the middle of the storm will make it look like the company is not taking the crisis seriously. Put aside usual business and promotions until things are under control.

3. Keep up your end of the conversation
Follow up and continue to provide information to the public over the next few days but don’t get pulled into a new argument. It is also not necessary to copy the same information as a reply to everyone involved. On Facebook, start a new post when you have new information so your response doesn’t disappear in the noise.

4. Accept the things you cannot change
Understand before the crisis solution is put into play, no matter what a company says, there will always still be unhappy customers. Some responses will include the company was too late to respond and the damage is already done. All a company can do is let these negative responses go and focus on fixing the initial problem. A small social media crisis will burn out in under a week. If the problem is still present, or if the crisis continues to escalate, reassess your plan of action.

5. Return to business as usual
Once the furor dies down, ramp up company tactics slowly. Begin with light messaging that puts the company brand back into the light. If the initial response is neutral or positive, social marketing campaigns are clear to resume as usual.

When a company is in the middle of a crisis, it can sometimes feel like it will never end. But rest assured, most companies bounce right back after a social media scuffle. When it’s all over, take the time to review what happened internally and make a plan for the next time. If done correctly, there won’t be a next time, but you will feel better knowing that all bases are covered.

Have you ever found yourself in a social media crisis? What did you do to fix the problem?