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How to manage a crisis on social media

Your digital strategy is distributed on a lot of channels: corporate blog, search engine optimisation, social media, and more. It is a stressful situation, and a minimum distraction can be a problem. You are always careful to what you post on social media on behalf of your brand, as you are representing your business, and if something goes wrong, your reputation does too, and profits with it. That’s when you learn how to manage a crisis on social media.

Some people may argue that when a brand fails on social media, they only get critics for a couple of days and then everything is back to normal, but is not always true. You might remember a late 2017 video posted by Dove on social media, because ti got viral due to an apparently racist nature:

Dove crisis on social media

Indignation came immediately, but it seemed vanished after a couple of days, with people who still went to their favourite supermarket and bought a bottle of Dove. However, according to The Drum, the negative sentiment increased by 50% even way after the ad was removed from the internet.

The truth is if you don’t know how to manage a crisis on social media, you do take some economical damage. We are sure Unilever had no intention to post a racist ad, but a lack of common sense was enough to trigger people’s rage. Unfortunately, a crisi may happen at all times, and when you choose to push your brand on social media, you know it is part of the deal, and you have to be prepared to handle it or let it handle to your social media manager.

So, how to manage a crisis on social media? There are four steps to take, let’s see.


The first thing you can do is listening to the reasons why people are so angry at you: everything you share on the internet is subject to the judgment of different people with different experiences and background, so something that seems acceptable for you, maybe is not acceptable for everyone. Do not make the mistake of underestimating this aspect thinking you know your target well, because you don’t and you never will: culture and society change over time.

So, in this phase you have to understand what led your audience to have a negative reaction, because you will need to prove you actually listen to them, otherwise you will end up digging an even bigger hole.


Once you know how the misunderstanding happened, you should recognise the mistake and genuinely say sorry for the bad feelings you triggered, and then you can tell your side of the story, and explain what you meant with an official note.

The purpose of this step is to re-build the empathy between you and your audience. Do not expect the effect would be immediate and that everyone will respond positively to it, but it will help to cool down the huge wave of heat that is burning your reputation.


The next question is: how can you possibly deter your audience from unfollowing you, or worse, lose your customers for good?

Trying to minimise the incident and sweep it under the carpet won’t help for the same reason we stated in the introduction of this post: people seem to easily forget and forgive, but they don’t. So, the best way to deal with a social media fail is posting an apology. You may argue that not everyone accepts apologies, and it is true, but if you followed the previous steps, the odds in your favour will significantly increase, but what’s more important is the very fact you are actually doing something to fix the mistake. What should you do, in particular? Let’s see the next step.


Nothing better than a real compensation can fix the broken heart of your customers. In fact, an apology followed by a compensation doubles its effectiveness. Compensation is your trump card, as it can turn a fail into a win. You can offer a discount, a limited time promotion, a special version of one of your product, and so on.

So, now not only you know how to manage a crisis on social media, but also how to reverse it and even get an opportunity out of it!

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