Guide: How to create a social media crisis management plan

By Sarah Parker
Best practices

Every brand — no matter your size — should have a crisis communication plan. You need to know what to do as soon as a crisis strikes, who is in charge of each part of the plan, and who the backup contacts are in case the point person isn’t available.

This is especially important when it comes to your social media strategy. Twitter is one of the first places customers turn with questions. 

Don’t be caught in a panic. Have a plan. Here’s how to stay ready on social media.

Be ready for emergencies with comprehensive social listening

If you’re tracking important brand handles, branded hashtags, and industry keywords, you can stay ahead of most issues that might be brewing. Be sure you have comprehensive social listening set up so you're ready to go if something happens.

Also, consider tracking relevant influencers — the people who might be the first to spot a trend or important issue. You can use this information for future influencer campaigns.

What should you look for to identify a potentially urgent situation?

  • Watch for spikes in conversation—  more Tweets than normal or more impressions than normal.
  • Is someone Tweeting over and over about something?
  • Are accounts with large follower counts jumping in?
  • Are people using negative or inflammatory hashtags?
  • What links or articles are people sharing?

Sentiment analysis can help you keep up with the mood around your brand. If you’re seeing a negative shift in sentiment, you can work to find the problem and fix it as soon as possible.

Establish the severity of the situation at hand

Comprehensive social listening is important because it helps you monitor the conversation around your brand and understand an issue before it has the chance to snowball into a critical situation. The first step is to take a close look at your analytics and decide how serious an issue is.

  • How large is the conversation?
  • How many Tweets and people are participating?
  • Are they getting a lot of engagement or is the conversation contained to a small group?

Before you put any plans into action, be sure you’re ready to respond at the appropriate level. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I easily fix this right now? Don’t let simple things snowball. Offer a sincere apology and a plan to resolve the situation, send an appropriate link with an explainer, or block someone who is just spamming angry vitriol at a brand account for no reason.
  • Can I take this offline? Often someone causing a scene just wants to be heard. Making it clear that you hear them and that you can help is enough to defuse many situations.
  • Should I pass this on to someone else? Have a plan for who's responsible for certain situations, and be sure you have backup contacts identified. Know the chain of command for any clients and have emergency contact information available.
  • Should I hold off on a response? In some cases, it might be best to stay silent. Maybe an issue isn't that serious, or something that doesn't (yet) merit a response. Just consider carefully — sometimes silence puts out a fire, and sometimes it makes it worse.  

Prepare your team with a pre-mortem

Brands and agencies will often do a post-mortem after a situation occurs, establishing the timeline of what went wrong and how things unfolded over time. The best way to put your plan to the test is to run some drills with your team in a pre-mortem: Run through different scenarios and change up the variables of who is available or out-of-pocket while the situation is unfolding, pretending it’s all in real-time.

Even if the situation your team ends up dealing with in the future is completely different from the ones you practiced with, you’ll still feel more confident and prepared. 

The bottom line? You want to over-prepare so your team is ready when something does happen.

Additional reading:


Ready to advertise on Twitter?