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    The four stages of social media issue and crisis management

    David Thomas

    (Original article posted January 30, 2019 via econsultancy.com, © 2019)

    Some organisations discover issues through social media before they find out about them from their own employees.

    According to Salesforce, 55% of ‘high performing’ customer service teams say they can predict customer service needs more than 80% of the time, and with more customers now expecting instant responses it pays to have a plan in place to avoid any problems on social.

    Michelle Goodall, consultant and author of Econsultancy’s recently published B2B Social Media Best Practice Guide highlights how important reputation management is for company success.

    “Reputation is a core element of organisational success. Having great financial stewardship, brilliant management, processes and quality services or products will underpin all organisations. In competitive markets, reputation is *the* major differentiator – and this is driven by people, communication, behaviours and action.”

    “Social media is the public proof of who you are, how you communicate, your behaviours and your actions. If there is any discrepancy between who and what you say you are and your actions and behaviours, then it’s a great space for your detractors to make that abundantly and publicly clear. So the stakes are high.”

    1. Identification

    Identifying crises (scenarios that would stop your business functioning) or issues (less serious challenges) is an important part of any social media strategy.

    To do this most effectively, a social listening process needs to be established. Businesses should have at least one person that is responsible for the process of checking online media and social media on a daily basis.

    There are a number of free tools – Tweetdeck for instance – that businesses can use for social media listening, but also plenty of more sophisticated options that may include extra features such as logo recognition or sentiment analysis.

    The identification process should always start with a consideration of what scenarios are likely. Once these have been established, you can get more granular and consider which keywords or key phrases to track using social listening tools to quickly identify specific issues.

    2. Evaluation

    Once identified, issues need to be assessed and prioritised.

    Here are a few questions your organisation could use to frame its issue/crisis assessment:

    • What is being said? What is the seriousness of the issue?
    • Who is saying it? What is the influence or authority of the person who posts it?
    • How often is it being said? Is the issue becoming increasingly visible or fading away?
    • When is it being said? Is the issue having an impact at a significant time (e.g. new site/product launches)?
    • Where is it being said? Is the issue on a public platform (e.g. Twitter) or a private group or closed vertical social network?

    Once these questions have been considered, organisations can start to categorise the importance of an issue and the speed with which it should be handled. This needs to be done quickly to mitigate further problems and prevent a crisis.

    This assessment and categorisation process differs from organisation to organisation, with many opting for a simple scoring/traffic light system and others (often larger organisations) using social media monitoring software to track keywords and phrases, influence and volume.

    More sophisticated software has the ability to categorise social posts according to criteria such as location and sentiment. It’s important to note that software shouldn’t replace humans entirely in this stage of the process, as context cannot always be identified even by the best AI tools.

    3. Escalation

    The escalation process is typically predicated by the evaluation system your organisation has in place and is often dependant on company size and resources.

    Organisations that use a traffic light system to evaluate issues may use parameters to guide escalation. For example, a ‘green’ issue may be best placed to be picked up by a customer service team, product manager or social media manager. Whereas a ‘red’ issue (crisis) would likely warrant much more senior involvement – CEO/executive board for instance.

    Take this example from KLM. As flight delays are a common issue that customers turn to social media to resolve, there was likely no need for escalation beyond the social media manager or customer service team. The team was able to respond in a timely fashion, thus mitigating any further problems.

     

    However, in moments where crises arise, it’s important that organisations mobilise as quickly as possible to quell any damage, which leads some businesses to assemble a ‘crisis team’. This team typically consists of whoever is responsible for social media, senior PR and communications, customer service, HR, legal, operations, technical and product or marketing experts.

    Dependent on the issue, in terms of severity or category (e.g. site down for an extended period of time) additional people (e.g. the tech team) may be better placed to respond and monitor the problem.

    4. Response

    Responses are critical to the way your organisation is seen by customers and should be a direct result of the work done in the identification, evaluation and escalation processes. Problems that have been planned for should have pre-approved responses to provide consistency and cut-down response time.

    Identifying this type of issue quickly is crucial and organisations should be prepared to rapidly evaluate and escalate them to the crisis team. Dependent on the issue or crisis the team should decide if it needs to respond and/or if it needs to make any changes – e.g. bring in another team member.

    Not all issues require a response, however, dependent on the severity of the problem, it may be appropriate to issue a response online directly (e.g. social media) or release a statement (e.g. press release). It’s important to agree on how and who in the business will respond to issues and crises – an issue of greater severity may require a response from someone more senior, in a different medium, for example.

    Here are some key considerations for distribution of response statements:

    • Twitter is effective for rapid responses
    • Organisations’ own websites, media centres and blogs are the most formal place for a response
    • YouTube and native video on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are possible options to give the organisation’s spokespeople an opportunity to respond directly and at speed
    • Facebook or LinkedIn posts can be suitable places for longer form responses