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Hello, 911? This is the New Social Media Manager

5 min

There are many emergencies that happen in our careers, but nothing stings more than a Social Media manager’s vibrating phone on a Saturday night. Even though your job may be 9-5 Monday to Friday, people have access to your product AND your social media accounts 24/7.

As a Social Media Manager (or anyone working in social media) you might face a crisis or two. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there, which is why we all know the importance of a well-prepared emergency plan – no matter the situation.

Most companies with have an emergency social media plan in place, but what if you’re just starting out, never thought of having a plan in place, and a crisis is brewing on your own turf? There are a couple things to keep in mind if you’re an emergency newbie.

Do I call 911?

When you see the number of tweets, retweets, Facebook comments, or LinkedIn comments rise – don’t panic. A great example of a buzz that won’t turn into a crisis is Apple. With new products coming out, every product gets a more or less innovative change. We love apple, but we hate the changes and so with every product we roll out a new set of unhappy tweets and comments.

It’s not necessarily a crisis, as Apple knows how loyal customers are to it. It really is just about polite replies and “we are very sorry for the inconvenience” as it will be just that to some.

So when is it an emergency? As a starter point follow Hootsuite’s simple guide:

  • Less than five negative mentions per hour: Continue monitoring closely. Compile a report for senior management to review at the end of the day.
  • More than five negative mentions per hour: Begin assigning messages to the public relations manager in Hootsuite.
  • More than 10 negative mentions per hour, for more than three consecutive hours: Contact the CMO on her cell phone, and begin officially rolling out the social media crisis management plan.”

This is a great starting point, you might be a small brand and your threshold might be five negative tweets per hour for more than three hours. Make sure you keep monitoring your social media and reply to as many tweets as possible – CALMLY.

The first wave

Your website is down, you’ve been hit by hackers, there was a fire in one of your shops or properties, or maybe a disaster happened in an area where your business is located. These are all very different scenarios but very real ones. What should be your first instinct the minute you learn of a crisis? Turn off all automated social media posts.

In the midst of a panic and trying to reply to every tweet and comment sent your way, you might not notice that you have scheduled posts that are going out and, most likely, aggravating your customers even more.

You will see that there are various types of posts. From those just asking for more info all the way to trolls who got in on the action “for fun.” Before you start replying ask yourself a couple questions:

  1. Do I know what went wrong?
  2. Do I know the cause behind the problem?
  3. If not, is the cause being investigated?
  4. Are there any backup solutions that I can hint at?

If you don’t have an answer, calmly say so.

It is better to admit that you do not yet know what has happened than to ignore the problem and let it escalate. If you can’t give your customers an ETA try to at least reassure them that you are on the job and not out for a drink in town.

Remember, if you stumble upon a raging customer or a troll, it may not be worth your time to continue a conversation with them. Where applicable ask for personal details to be send via DM’s so that you can keep track of specific cases and get back to customers when and if you can give them more answers or, hopefully, some good news.

In for the long haul

It’s not enough to tweet or posts updates when you have more information to share. If you are able to do so, please post them on a web page or press release page where you are able to give as much details as possible. If your crisis revolves around people or companies that work for you or you work with, it would be best to reach out to them to get more clarity in your press release or updates.

Share a tweet or post that clearly states where the live updates can be found on your website and pin these posts to the top of your social media profiles. As you tweet and ask people to visit your website for more information they will most likely distribute this page to others, so be sure you update it as much as possible.

Don’t put a bandaid over it

The dust settled, all should be fine, why not put a bandaid over it? Because what’s been put out in the Internet can never disappear again.

Even if you have fixed the issue, there are three things you must do:

  1. Ensure any remaining questions or create FAQ pages you can link to.
  2. Your updates section or Press Release should outline exactly what had happened, why, how you have fixed the issue, and how you plan on preventing this from happening again.
  3. Create a strategy plan for future social media emergencies!

Recovering from your social media 911 moment could take a couple of days, so give it a day or two before you resume your scheduled posts. Be sure to take screenshots and notes from what had happened so that you can learn and improve.

Ask yourself:

  • Is it worth your time to invest in better social media listening tools?
  • Maybe it’s time to devise a good “just in case” plan of attack to tackle the hard questions? (CoSchedule gave some great tips on how to create a solid social media policy)

In the end you are only human, but one with the amount of patience only Social Media Managers could have.

Do you know any example of well handled social media emergencies? Share in the comments below!