Ethical Guide to Prevent Social Crisis

With 50.64% of the world’s total population using social media it is extremely important for companies to stay mindful of how they use and interact with not only their current followers but potential followers and even their haters. A crisis can arise at any time, but if companies stay ethical when using social media they will minimize the risks of consumer backlash.

How do you stay ethical?

Know Your Audience. Knowing your target audience will help you meet their expectations. When you truly know who your audience is at their core and what they value, it helps you better understand how to speak with them. A brand that speaks to moms and families may speak in a softer, friendlier, more informational manner than a brand that sells alcohol. If the family brand started speaking like the alcohol company it could cause a crisis because parents are looking for a brand to care as much about their families as they do, they look for a brand that feels the same sense of responsibility as they have when caring for their homes.

Be Transparent. Fostering transparency means being honest, open and forthcoming. Mistakes happen, but don’t try to bury your wrongdoings, especially from your audience. News travels fast, especially when social media is involved. Your best bet is always to own your mistakes and let your audience know that you understand why your messaging or actions were wrong and that you will do the work to educate and grow.

Think Before You Tweet. Posting online is instant, public and more often than not, permanent. Once you post, you lose control of what happens next. For example, in 2015 Ihop tweeted an extremely sexist and suggestive “joke” about women’s breasts during breast cancer awareness month. The tweet said “Flat but has a GREAT personality,” followed by an image of a plate of pancakes. While they made sure to delete the tweet after receiving major backlash it was too late, their audience retweeted, took screenshots, and continued to push the conversation forward, thus the evidence of IHOP’s crime still lives on as a reminder to be careful about what you tweet before you tweet it.

Is a crisis inevitable?

As the nation continues to grow and evolve and accept or dismantle ways of thinking, it is absurd to believe that your company will never have a crisis to handle. While maintaining an ethical standard helps prevent living in a state of consistent crisis it is more important to have a plan of what to do when a crisis happens.

Know What Is and Is Not a Crisis. Somebody sending a mean tweet or two about your company doesn’t constitute a crisis. Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay! So a few tweets here and there of users complaining about your brand or business is expected. However, using social listening tools to filter through that noise is important so that when someone has a valid complaint about your actual product and/or services you can address it responsibly to prevent swirl and spin.

Use an Internal Alert and Response FlowchartNot all crises have the same response teams. Not all crises need the same level of response and the sooner a company deals with an issue the need to escalate further is reduced. Creating a crisis flowchart helps identify who within the company should be contacted for certain scenarios.

Learn Your Lessons. The most important thing to do after a crisis is to learn from your mistakes. Be sure to document what caused the crisis, what protocols were followed, and all your metrics pre, during, and post-crisis mode.

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