Every business has their own definition of exactly what constitutes a crisis. So it follows that crisis management with social media will also have multiple – and varied – meanings to different people. So we have assembled the best in class examples of crisis management with social media– and lessons learned you can apply to your social media teams.

The PR team is concerned about the reputation of their company, while an advertising executive is largely focused on how well their campaign is running. What rings true across all types of “social media crises” however is that things spread – fast – and unlike other mediums, there is, gulp, a dire need to respond.

Let’s take a gander at four different kinds of crisis and the companies who weathered the storm with grace and ingenuity.

Marketing Campaign Crisis – Best in Class: Oreo

During the 2013 Superbowl XLVII, the Superdome in New Orleans, Lousiana suddenly went dark due to a power outage, plunging throngs of devoted fans into panic and outrage – it could have been disastrous.

Happily and (savvily) however, i360 – Oreo’s digital agency – had all of the right pieces in place for such an emergency; they had recently launched a daily campaign to engage with customers over social media and set up a control center in order to communicate in real-time during the Superbowl. But they never could have expected a blackout.

Oreo’s foresight regarding staffing, real-time engagement and active listening took their already clever advertising campaign – 100 days of Oreo – and leveraged it, using the crisis, into a memorable marketing campaign for years to come.

Not only didn’t they let the blackout stop the momentum of their campaign, they enabled it to fuel one of most indelible social media campaigns in recent history.

Product or Service Crisis – Best in Class: Maker’s Mark

Facing increased global demand, the Loretta, Kentucky brand Maker’s Mark decided to change its recipe to increase supply. Not surprisingly, dedicated Maker’s Mark drinkers took to social media to express their

indignation, and strongly…in fact, much stronger than the proposed alcohol content.

Maker’s Mark listened to their social channels and just one week later responded in the very medium their customers has chosen to engage with – Twitter and Facebook:

“We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.

You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.”

Combining honesty, humility, and obvious dedication to their customers’ opinion, Maker’s Mark decided revenue wasn’t as important as reliability and integrity.

And the world rejoiced.

The Crisis of Informing People of a Crisis – Best in Class:
Boston Area Police Department

The Boston Police Department turned to Twitter during the Boston Marathon bombings to tackle their crisis management.

Twitter allowed them to create a real-time Twitter presence, connect with all their constituents and inform the entire world as to what was transpiring on the streets of Massachusetts. The Boston Police department not only used Twitter to break news and counter rumors – they also turned to the citizens of Boston for help.

Boston Tweet w: pic

The Boston Police Department even accomplished the relatively unthinkable in the wake of this tragedy – they managed to mitigate dangerous speculation from spreading.

Boston tweet

So, now you know the cream of the crop – but how do you change your company’s approach to crisis management with social media? Don’t fret, we’ve compiled some social tips for you.

1. “By Failing to Prepare, You are Preparing to Fail” – Benjamin Franklin

Having a plan in place – and the thoughtful process which accompanies the planning – gives your team the ability to know how to react to a crisis in advance. Though it might seem like a waste of time or even a bit paranoid, holding a brainstorming session with your team to tackle some of these these questions will make it easier for you to act quickly and calmly, minimizing the fallout of any crises you’re forced to tend with.

Questions to consider:

What defines a crisis for your company? How can you use social media to identify and combat a crisis? What do your customers need from you? How do you foster that conversation with your customers?

2. Act quickly

As shown by Oreo, they managed to turn a potentially poor marketing campaign into something legendary. How’d they do it? Because they acted swiftly and succinctly. Action beats perfection. In fact, here, action morphed into perfection.

Finding a Social Media Management System which doesn’t slow you down is key – information needs to be channeled to your team instantaneously so your team can view posts and respond rapidly.

3. Listen

Speed and listening go hand in hand. Maker’s Mark had to be actively listening to their customers in order to respond with the speed and dexterity they did.

In any business there are a myriad of situations, comments and criticisms which any PR or CS employee are terrified of – where a flight’s delayed, the food is undercooked, the party’s been ruined or the staff was rude – you should catalogue and capture the language of your customers and create alerts on these phrases so you are aware of what your customers are saying.

Awareness allows you to act quickly and nip a crisis in the bud…instead of letting it blossom into a full-blown PR fiasco.

4. Let Data + Feedback Inform Your Decisions

Finally, make sure your social efforts are being tracked. Some employees might be better at responding to potential crises with the *right* amount of wit and care.

Keep track of these responses and the employees who offer them. Keep track of how well your team handles potentially dangerous situations over time so you can ask for more resources, scale up, scale down, rework your tactics and stay nimble.


Regardless of how tightly you run your ship and as smooth as the sailing has been, a squall can brew and before you know it, water is breaching your bow.

Put the time in now – before anything has happened – to carefully consider what your escalation process will be if and when the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan.

Foster a dialogue between every facet of your staff here and now – from your marketing and public relations teams to your legal team and your executive higher-ups. Every silo is going to have a different means of guiding responses and it’s important to encourage cross-pollination to make sure every base is covered and everyone knows where their responsibilities lie.

That way, when a crisis starts, your team can coolly and calmly address the problem, knowing exactly what they’re expected to say and how to respond.

Peace of mind is a beautiful thing.


This post was cross-posted from Useful Social Media.