What we can learn from the world’s leading social businesses about how things can get out of control.

You can’t stop a crisis once it happens. But you can minimise the chances of getting embroiled in one in the first place.

New research from Altimeter Group backs up this maxim; three quarters of the 50 social media crises they tracked over that last 10 years could have been averted or diminished.  Note that these companies are described as ‘advanced’ in their deployment of social media – they are not novices.

So where exactly did they feel most exposed? We have talked previously about the steps to prevent a crisis but the chart below highlights the feedback from businesses.

Altimeter reseac social media crisis

Reproduced from Altimeter Group research

There are three here that I want to focus on:

1. The wrong team

The top two relate to education and people. Staff need to understand the difference between a ‘traditional’ and a ‘social’ crisis. The speed and the contagion effect are different and need to be understood. You also need the right skills in the crisis team – a blend of crisis management best practice as well as practical experience of using social media. All the crisis experience in the world isn’t going to save you if no one in the team can actually send a Tweet.

2. What? No plan?

Yes, you need a plan but not a ring-bound bible that sits on the shelf gathering dust. In the midst of a crisis you need a plan that can flex with the unique circumstances of each crisis. At its heart is the decision-making process – how to gather information, assess it, make decisions and then act on it. To some extent the plan needs generic processes – such as how and when to go live with a dark site but it should focus on principles rather than rigid rules.

3. Mediocre moderation

Knowing when to step into a Twitter storm or a frenzy of negativity on your Facebook page is always a difficult call. A workflow provides  a framework to help make that decision – when and where to get involved in the conversation and when to sit tight. Here is an example of one such model.

Social media crisis triage

Social media crisis triage by immediate future

It’s not the sexy end of social media. But it’s the detail; it’s the policy, plans and training that will save you from a crisis.

Let us know your thoughts.

Find out more about our online reputation management and crisis management services.

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