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How Do You Handle Negativity on Social Media?

In every social media training that I’ve given, the same question is been asked: “What about the negative implications of social media or a crisis?” Although they make headlines, in my experience those instances are few. Sure, there may be a negative comment posted. But in most cases, they make the person posting look bad – not the organization.

A social media crisis is commonly defined as issue that arises in or is amplified by social media, and results in negative mainstream media coverage, a change in business process, or financial loss.

There have been headlines about the rise in social media crisis. While the number of social media crises have increased over the past decade, it has been at a much slower pace than the growth in social media activity and engagement overall. More activity naturally means the increase potential for a crisis.

The biggest concern any business is the unavoidable attack. The challenge is that you never know when a crisis may strike, but how you react will make all the difference – on and off social media.

So, it’s best to be prepared:

Have a clear plan.

Every business, no matter its size, should anticipate the potential crises, based on its size, location, products and services and philosophies. Ask yourself: What are the worst-case scenarios?  Make a list and then identify the steps that would be taken by whom. You can even create some sample posts of what you would say if a specific crisis happens. It’s important that key members are aware of the plan and how they will be notified if an issue arises.

Wait (for a moment) and watch.

If your organization has built a (loyal) following, they likely will rise up and defend your organization from back-handed posts by who they perceive as an “outsider” or “negative nelly.” Having a supporter stand up for your organization goes a long away in calming a potential storm.

Stop all automatic posts.

It’s becoming more common for organizations to schedule posts and use social media management systems to post regular content. It’s best to use these on a limited basis. In times of crisis, automatic or scheduled posts need to be paused. They could appear at just the wrong time and seem out of place.

Respond promptly to everyone.

Being prompt in a response is essential, even if a follower has already said something on your behalf. Every comment and question on a social media account for an organization deserves acknowledgement. When a negative comment arises, respond briefly – then call the meeting and follow up with additional posts as appropriate.

Take the high road.

It’s easy to get sucked in to negativity or defensive behaviors. Crises demand us to step back and step up. They are opportunities to show your organization’s character. Focus on your messages of reassurance, building confidence and communicating your company’s core.

Social media may feel more out of an organization’s control and crises have proven to escalate quickly due to the social and viral nature of social media. But having a solid crisis communication plan is essential for all organizations – actively involved or simple spectators of social media. Crises for an organization are not limited to social media.

The readiness of an organization to respond will define the outcomes and can mitigate any losses. So, take the time. Consider the scenarios. But don’t dwell. There are far more opportunities and successes in this world.

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