Social Media has become a vital tool for connecting companies to their target markets. It has the potential to boost company reputation and facilitate consumer communication. However, two-way communication can go wrong and end up working against an organisation.   Social media has created a whole new way for organisational crisis to begin and escalate.   Everyone is at risk of getting caught in a social media crisis and because of this it is important for organisations to not only try to prevent them but also know what to do when prevention fails.

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The best thing an organisation can do is have a strategy plan for a crisis.  This should be communicated and explained to all involved staff, it should be documented and easily accessible.   The strategy plan should include how the organisation is going to act during a crisis, including how they are going to communicate to key publics. It should also include a plan for conflict resolution and guidance about litigation.

Organisations should designate a crisis management team. The crisis management team should have allocated tasks, for example monitoring social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), and providing a questions and answers service for key publics.

This team should be fully equipped with the skills to determine what defines a true crisis for the organisation.

The team should first look at the influence that the commenter or ‘troll’ has. The next thing to consider is if anyone from the public is aware of the threat. The team needs to consider whether or not the criticism being made is a new threat to the organisation, for example, MAC Cosmetics are often criticised for their use of animal testing, therefore a post about animal testing would not create a crisis for this organisation. Finally, the team needs to consider the actual impact the threat has on the organisation before determining if it is a crisis and formulating a response. It is important to remember to always respond. This can be done by messaging the commenter and asking for their personal email where a respond can be sent.

The organisation should allocate a key spokesperson for the duration of the crisis.  The spokesperson should be adequately trained in how to respond on social media on behalf of the company.  The key spokesperson’s main responsibility is to communicate with employees, media and the influencers about the crisis.

By creating a strong social media crisis management plan and by forming a skill crisis management team an organisation is able to prepare themselves for a social media threat and any potential crisis.