4 Tips to Prepare for Criticism and Crises on Social Media

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It was all over the news in the summer of 2015: The markets experienced a trading halt on one exchange, and Twitter was abuzz with chatter. While Nasdaq systems were operating normally, it proactively monitored more than 1,000 tweets asking whether its services were out, too. Nasdaq issued several messages reassuring everyone that there were no interruptions on its exchange, its servers were up and it was continuing to trade, recalls Josh Machiz, director of integrated marketing at Nasdaq.

Why jump in on somebody else’s problem? “Although it wasn’t our crisis, we have to be in that crisis mode, because we are the point of continuity for the market in that respect,” Machiz says. The right planning can prevent social media crises from spiraling out of control. After all, social media is where you are likely to learn of a crisis nowadays—say, a software glitch in your product, Machiz says. Here are some tips:

Monitor keywords and mentions

You need to know what’s happening out there, and your dashboard software is the most important piece of any crisis environment, Machiz says. Certain words, connected to your organization, could spell a crisis. Also, track the number of mentions. If there are, say, more than 100 mentions on a topic in three hours, Machiz gets a notification to prevent “micro-crises” from blowing up into major ones.

Keep an eye on journalists and others with influence

Nasdaq monitors not only mainstream news media, but also social media, to see what kind of discussion is going on, Linda Recupero, VP of Corporate Communications, says, “Reporters are part of the social landscape and watchers of social media. If they post something that’s inaccurate, call them and say, “That’s not accurate, and here’s why.” You must also closely follow those who have sway in your area, Machiz says. Don’t “feed the trolls” by re­sponding to every minor complaint. Instead, draw up a list of those bloggers and Twitter users who show an abiding interest in your organization and can shift opinion for better or worse. They may even tweet about issues after you’ve already resolved them. Let them know the problem is fixed.

Know the characteristics of a social media crisis

A true social media crisis has three characteristics, writes consultant Jay Baer, president of Convince & Con­vert. If all three happen, you’re in crisis mode, he states in a blog post, “Don’t Be Scared Be Prepared—How to Manage a Social Media Crisis.” The first is information asymmetry, which is when the company does not know more than the public about what’s going on, Baer writes. When your plane lands in the Hudson River and you learn about it through Twitter, that’s information asymmetry. Second, a social media crisis is a decisive change from the norm, Baer writes. When a company routinely criticized for labor practices faces a markedly different line of criticism, that’s another sign of a crisis. Finally, a social media crisis has a potential material impact on the company. Scope and scale are the signs of a social media crisis, Baer writes.

Set a listening protocol

You must have a listening protocol in your organization, Baer writes. Who is listening to the social Web, and when? What are they listening for? Who is covering nights and weekends? A crisis requires at least two people to respond: one to monitor the conversation and another to write social media posts that are distillations of the official statement, Machiz says. Do this in coordination with your crisis communications team. As you feed them information about the problem from Twitter and other sources, they will draft statements for the Web. On social media, you can either issue multiple tweets or post an abbreviat­ed statement and a link to your website, Machiz says.

This is an excerpt from our best practices guide, How to Build a World-Class Crisis Communications Playbook – click here to download your copy.


Allison Gosman Nasdaq Corporate Solutions

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