May 2017

Crisis Management in Social Media: Identifying a Crisis

In today’s hyper-vigilant world of citizen journalists, it is more important than ever to have a full understanding of the power of social media and the public’s ability to use and control it. Although this power can be used for good, that same power can also turn on companies in an instant.

Although understanding how to react in a social media crisis is imperative to your company’s reputation and success (see United Airlines), it is nearly as important to effectively identify a crisis in the first place. In order to act on a crisis appropriately, you have to know whether or not you’re in one. This will allow you to pump the brakes on a plan that might cause more damage than good, or understand when something is taking a turn for the worse.


Here are some tips when it comes to identifying a crisis:

Set your Benchmark: What looks like a crisis to one company may be everyday activity for another. Continuously monitor your company’s social media activity to set a benchmark for when you need to react, and when you can let something run its course. Using real, statistical data to drive your decisions will also give you an edge when you’re working to convince upper management of your recommended plan of action.

Identify a Significant Change from the Norm: Going back to the importance of setting a benchmark, when you see a significant change in the conversation surrounding your brand, something worse is likely coming. For example, if you typically received positive mentions, reviews and exchanges on social media and you take a sudden and drastic turn toward negative rhetoric, it’s a good sign that you need to start putting your plan in action.

Realize a Nonsignificant Change from the Norm: Likewise, if you’re seeing a change on social media – even if it’s toward the negative, that is not significant depending on your benchmark, you may not need to act. This is especially true for smaller companies that may not see as much activity on social media overall. Negative voices are typically the loudest and will often go to social media to be heard. A few negative comments here and there do not necessarily negate a crisis.

Look for a Shift in Control: When information about your company is breaking on social media before you are aware of it, for example the mistreatment of a customer, a malfunctioning product or a safety issue at a plant, you are likely experiencing a crisis. Social media allows for live feeds and instantaneous posting, which means you may not always be the one driving information.

Once you have effectively identified whether or not you’re dealing with a crisis, you can begin implementing a crisis management plan.