Social Media Crisis Management Plan: Tips on How to Prepare and Execute

With United Airlines’ social media disaster going viral last week, many top executives are questioning what is the plan to avoid such an embarrassing public relations nightmare for their own company. Who is monitoring what people are saying about you and your business? And, what do you do when it is negative? What is your crisis management plan?

I spoke with Mike Moran, Senior Strategist at Converseon and author of “Do it Wrong Quickly,” who says it is essential to keep track of the chatter on the world wide web. “The first thing you need is awareness,” he said. “There are people out there who have something to say and they have many different ways to be heard.”

Blogs, Message Boards, Product Ratings… should all be tracked for any negative comments. “That can be challenging,” Moran admitted. “Once you understand the importance of listening to your audience, you need to develop a process to help you hear them.”

How to Be Aware of Potential Problems

To keep track of what is being said about your organization, I recommend implementing a Social Medial Monitoring (SMM) tool, also known as a listening platform. This allows you to monitor and track mentions of your brand, products and competitors. SMM tools provide many different ways to analyze, measure, display and report findings.

Some of the more popular SMMs:


Social Mention



Need more? Visit this article for a much larger list.

To supplement your SMM, you can add a Social Media Dashboard (SMD). These typically include services for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, and more. Not only do these track social mentions and create posts / updates across multiple social platforms, but can also provide the data perfect for analysis of your social media strategy (friends, activity, audience engagement rates, gross page view counts, brand mentions, referrals, conversions, etc.).

Some of the more popular dashboards:




Another monitoring tip: Set up Google Alerts. These are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries.

What to listen for? Keep these topics in mind:

  • Your company name
  • Your product name(s) and/or services
  • Your brands
  • Your CEO
  • Your spokesperson
  • Your competition
  • Keywords related to your industry

Who Should Monitor and Who Should Respond

For larger companies, Moran suggests you don’t do it alone. “Stop being a Lone Ranger. Deputize your whole company.” He recommends assigning different people for different skill sets. “Public Relations people tend to focus on the entire business. However, social media response works better when there is a more specific role to play.” For example, he believes a product manager may know the intricate details of a product better and a regional manager may better understand local concerns and are better apt to reply.

“These people need to be trained in how to respond to negative comments,” he says. “But your job (as the social media guru) is to be a mentor. People are going to make some mistakes,” he cautioned. “They may have one-to-one experience in customer service but may not be sensitized to thinking or speaking in social media terms, which is much more public. Just because someone has been using Facebook for three years doesn’t mean they know how to appropriately respond,” he added.

What to Do with Negative Comments

Once you have established who is going to respond, a plan should be in place on how to respond.

  1. Respond Quickly. According to research from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, 28 percent of crises spread internationally within one hour, and 69 percent of crises go global within a day.Address any questions or negative comments immediately and professionally. Let your audience know you have heard their concern. If you can offer a solution to fix the problem or issue immediately, do so. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention.
  2. Communicate Internally. Let your team and any supervisor know of the situation and agree on what to say moving forward. This will help avoid any misinformation or contradictions being communicated externally.

Unfortunately, you cannot please everyone all the time. With the power of social media literally at everyone’s fingertips, the squeaky wheel will get heard. However, if you have a system in place to catch the flame early and a plan to address it before it becomes a firestorm, you will succeed where your competition may not.

Rick Verbanas has brought his passion for marketing to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and not-for-profits. He strives to stay current in the latest marketing best practices, and provides a weekly roundup for your news and enjoyment. To subscribe to future blogs, please enter your email address on the left hand side of the page.

2 thoughts on “Social Media Crisis Management Plan: Tips on How to Prepare and Execute

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