This week I had the opportunity to speak at PRSA Nashville’s luncheon on Preventing a Social Media Nightmare with Stephen Zralek, an attorney at Bone McAllester Norton PLLC. Since it’s been fresh on my mind, I wanted to dive a little more into the topic of social media and crisis communications.

Crisis

Since social media has become a mainstream marketing channel for brands, there has been a need for crisis communications. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone at Netflix or Papa John’s(Or check out the Green Apple Blog for other examples from our presentation.) Today, brands and consumers are more interconnected then ever before. At the same time, social media is the gasoline that causes small fires to become viral.

It’s interesting that the same things that make social media great also have the potential to cause real problems for brands. Therefore, it’s important to consider your organization’s crisis communications strategy for social media as soon as possible.

To help, here are five steps that are essential for any social media crisis communications plan:

Step One: Identify individual responsibilities.

Obviously, you can’t predict events, but rather set up a framework for action. If a negative comment or post is written on your brand’s Facebook you need to know who will be responsible for handling the situation.

Step Two: Identify potential hotspots.

No one knows your brand brand better than those who are a part of it every day, so work with them to identify potential areas of conflict or “hotspots.” Once you’ve identified those areas, it is good to go ahead and create a pre-approved response for each one.

Step Three: Create a timely response deadline.

Social media moves very quickly. Problems can snowball even quicker, and some fans will jump on a bandwagon before they even read through the issue at hand. Therefore, it’s important to set a goal response time for all good and bad comments. If you set a standard, you will be more apt to stick to it. For instance, having an initial response posted within an hour and having the issue resolved by the next business day might be a good guideline for your brand.

Step Four: Commit to transparency.

Honesty is critical when it comes to communicating with fans when they are upset. Feeding your canned or insincere responses will not go over well. When creating a plan, commit to being transparent during your response process.

Step Five: Plan for persistency.

It may take more than one update to calm the troubled social media waters. Therefore, when creating your social media crisis communications strategy, you need to plan ahead of time to make sure each and every possible issue is handled efficiently and effectively.

This post was first posted as part of Nashville Business Journal’s Social Madness Campaign. To read more from Green Apple Strategy articles published by the Nashville Business Journal, click here.