Public relations, Social media

Five tips for managing a crisis on Twitter

We all want our good news to go viral. But sometimes it’s the information you don’t want shared that actually gets traction.

Your business is closing retail stores. Your call centre is going offshore. Your company is making redundancies.

Social media is not just word-of-mouth – it’s world of mouth. So, how do you manage that conversation on the social web? Here are my tips for managing crisis communications in 140 characters.

Be transparent

Resist the urge to bury your bad news in the last paragraph of a media release. It is not traditional media that has storytelling power today – it is consumers. You can’t control the message or the messenger. You can only be the most active, informed and useful participant in the online conversation. People will tell your story, whether you like it or not. You have to break your own news on Twitter and be honest about the facts. Share real-time updates via your official Twitter account and share key information on your Facebook page.

Be fast

When news breaks, people head to Twitter. Be prepared. Set up a monitoring station in Hootsuite, or whatever platform your company uses, to monitor and respond to conversation. Draft tweets with key messages and vital information. You may want to use a hashtag for the conversation. Reply to comments and questions as quickly as possible. Re-post your reply as a public tweet in case other followers have the same query. Respond to incorrect information with the facts, so misinformation doesn’t spread. Post a tweet every 15 minutes alerting people to follow your official Twitter handle for updates.

Be loud

You need to be the loudest person in a very noisy room. Post a tweet with key information every five minutes. Repeat the facts. Post new information, as it unfolds, as fast as possible. Share important information using as many mediums as possible – video, podcasts, images and words. Use your other social platforms to direct people to your official Twitter account for updates.

Be useful

There is no point making excuses and not offering a solution. Just saying, ‘we’re sorry, we’re experiencing technical issues right now’ isn’t useful. How can you help? You need to be customer-focussed. If your website is down, can you share information via your Facebook page? If your phones are down, can you provide customer service via social media instead? Social communications are human-to-human – you need to be helpful, empathetic and useful. If you are trying to find the answer to a question, let the person know you are getting an answer for them. Go above and beyond for the consumer.

Be responsive

Use real-time consumer feedback to determine how your business needs to respond. Do you need to establish a hotline? A dedicated support team? An alternate website? You need to be customer-focussed. Wherever possible move distressed customers into direct message, out of the public domain, and talk person-to-person. Give the person your full name, email address and your role at the company. Be accountable, authentic and helpful. The crisis will end, but the impact on your company’s brand and reputation will be lasting and determined by how you respond. Use the crisis as an opportunity to be exceptional.

Do you have any tips to share?

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