Building A Crisis Plan For Your Social Media Strategy

Brands that do not have a robust social media crisis plan are very apparent when things start to go south for them online. Everything escalates quickly on the Internet, and that’s a fact. Social media (and especially Twitter) is one of the most public forums for social care, and all of your interactions are laid bare for the world to see. If you’re not ready, everyone will know.

It’s daunting stuff!

Whether it’s bad customer experience, a piece of marketing that backfired or a rogue staff member tweeting away – it is essential to be prepared.

But don’t panic, I am here to help you,

  • Identify different levels of ‘crisis’ on social media;
  • Understand how to react when the doo-doo really hits the fan;
  • Get set up to avoid a future social media crisis.

There are many ways to categorise a social media crisis. Some define them as ‘Minor or Major’, some as ‘Red, Amber, Green’. How you chose to define your alert levels depends on you and your business. These are purely to help you understand what degree of risk there is to your brand, how you need to respond and which stakeholders you may need to reach out to.

For the purpose of this blog, I am going to use ‘Red, Amber, Green’.


  • A complaint or query: There is no crisis afoot, however a negative experience or review is public online for all to see. Never panic at this stage, simply respond in a helpful manner and ask to take the conversation to Private/Direct Message, or email/phone if they prefer, to resolve it fully. One this issue is resolved, circle back to close the loop and thank them for raising the issue with you. (At least this was a simple fix with minimal escalation!)


woman on escalator in subway
Photo by Kaique Rocha on


  • A spreading of untruths/myths about your product, brand or services: It is important to acknowledge these messages and that the concern is being investigated. Transparency where possible is essential, and giving a clear timeframe for a response will help to pacify the situation.
  • Brand posts with an increase in negative sentiment: If the comment thread is beginning to tip into the majority of negative sentiment always review whether removing your post (or pausing ad spend) is the best next step. It may not be if you are also seeing positive engagement and conversion. However, do not delete negative comments. This is dishonest and is likely to anger people further. Simply ‘hide’ any that use profanity or threatening language, and leave the rest. By hiding it, the person who posted and those who have already engaged with it will still see it, but it will no longer be visible to upset new viewers on your post.
  • Trolls: DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. If there is no genuine complaint or issue that you can resolve for them, simply block their account. You can also report them if the messages are harmful and in breach of social network’s terms of use.
  • Hacked Account: Oh, dear. Tim left the business without logging the Instagram account out of his phone. Now the timeline is filled with unpleasantly graphic images… Eeeeek! (This is a fictional story, and if this has happened to your business – my condolences.)


  • Serious brand risk: For example, posts from customers/service users that speak of legal threats, allegations, racism/homophobia/sexism, environmentalism issues, violence/terrorism, breaking news stories and more.
  • A surge in inbound messages about the same negative topic: If you receive an overwhelming surge in messages all relating to a specific issue, something has gone very wrong. Setting up social listening reports and alerts will help you to catch any bubbling issues. Some social media platforms, like Sprinklr, Sprout, and Hootsuite, allow you to set ‘volumetric alerts’ when you receive a flood of inbound messages above your average and notify specific contacts when this happens.

But don’t panic!

man in white shirt using macbook pro
Photo by Tim Gouw on

What should you do when crisis levels hit Red (or even Amber)?

  • ESCALATE to the relevant stakeholders internally
  • Respond in real-time, with honesty and integrity but without changing your tone too much
  • Monitor in real-time with bespoke listening and reporting dashboards
  • If necessary, pause Ads and review all upcoming social content
  • Keep all internal stakeholders well informed, and have a thorough debrief after the event

Let’s talk about prevention for your Crisis Plan

  • Have a contact list of stakeholders to escalate to. Include their name, job role, email, phone (personal and work) and a note about which point in the escalation they need to be brought in
  • Set up social listening for the name of your brand, product, and services
  • Set up social listening on your key competitors, keywords related to your industry and location
  • Closely monitor your inbound messages
  • Review your pre-scheduled social media content plan (including evergreen) on a very regular basis
  • Monitor the social activity of your influencers, PR reps, media spokespeople, etc
  • Consolidate your social channels, manage them through a social media management tool and ensure only the most essential people have the access passwords to the native channels
  • Update the passwords regularly, and especially when a member of the social team leaves the business.

If you’re a lone-wolf social media manager looking for tips and tricks on how to deliver great results – join my FREE Facebook group:

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