Social Customer Care During Times of Crisis

Things move rapidly on social media. While we always work toward preventing crises before they start and being prepared for when they do, even the best preparation likely did not prepare you for the COVID-19 global pandemic that has impacted nearly everyone on the planet and changed the social media landscape overnight. Businesses have had to shift their entire approach to social media and community management in an instant — whether that means using their platforms to share important updates with their customers, or being inundated with questions and comments. 

If you didn’t yet have a firm strategy in place for managing a crisis, figuring out where to start now might seem overwhelming. Remember, a few upset tweets is not a crisis. A true social media crisis is something that could directly impact the company overall and oftentimes feels like an out of control boulder falling down a hill. It happens fast and can be hard to stop.

Below are some tips on where to start during a social media crisis –– you’ve worked hard to build your community, so take these steps to protect it:

Understand The Numbers

Don’t rely on feelings or emotions alone. It’s important to quantify the types of comments and questions you are getting so that you can determine where to spend your energy. Along with social media monitoring, utilize social listening tools or processes to get a wide-angle look at what’s being said around certain brand or industry keywords. Then, work with your team to quantify the types of mentions and what platforms they are coming in on. If you don’t have tools, search hashtags and set-up Google Alerts. This will give you the most accurate picture of the situation at hand.

Don’t Be Immediately Reactive

It’s human nature to want to immediately respond and defend yourself or “shut down the haters,” but in times of crisis it’s important to remember that the brand has one time, and one time only, to respond properly. Take a deep breath, draft a response, talk it through and get alignment from all stakeholders and the team. Work together on a response that makes sense from the brand and keep emotions at bay.

Listen, Really Listen

Take the opportunity to genuinely listen to what your community is saying –– understand their pain points so that your response is on tone and valuable. Putting out a blanket response that feels disingenuine can result in further backlash. In the era of COVID-19, many businesses find themselves unable to provide certain services or might be forced to temporarily close, leaving customers feeling concerned about their orders, treatments, next steps, etc. While you may not yet have all the answers, acknowledging what your community needs from you will go a long way. Start there.

Make a Plan and Activate It Quickly

Once you have a solid picture of your community’s pain points and are aligned on next steps internally, it’s time to get some messaging together that you can use to respond to social media comments and questions. Wherever the crisis started, is where you should react first. This means if comments have erupted on Twitter, start there. Your messaging should:

  • Address and acknowledge the issue
  • Provide the customer with clear next steps, ie “stay tuned for more information, we will be updating our Facebook page regularly every day at 10 AM PST” 
  • Provide the customer with additional support, if needed, ie “Please reach out directly to your provider to reschedule any cancelled appointments”
  • Be honest – now is not the time to pretend like everything is great if it’s not. That’s not to say you need to be gloom and doom, but authenticity and being human go a long way in times of strife.

Keep a Very Close Eye on Your Platforms & Brand Sentiment

Once you have gone public with any messages, it’s just the beginning –– not the end. This is the time to amp up your social media monitoring, including evenings and weekends. Investing in staff who are constantly keeping a pulse on the community not only provides key insights into if your responses are working, or if you’ll need to further pivot, but allows responses to happen almost in real-time, continuing to de-escalate the issues quickly. Additionally, it’s important to continue quantifying the chatter to get a clear picture of overall brand health.

Analyze and Debrief

Once the chatter has calmed down, and the world has moved on (and trust us, it always moves on), you might be inclined to forget about this stressful chapter and get back to business as usual. Before you do, take this moment to debrief with your social media team on learnings and takeaways. Can you identify any opportunities to improve? Is there additional support the community needs? What can your brand do to get ahead of possible crisis situations before they start?

Additionally, make sure you understand the final numbers. How many mentions were pulled in, what was the total volume, what was the sentiment, can you spot any trends? Use this data to fuel future messaging or staffing needs – you might find that your community managers need additional support in the form of headcount, messaging, or company updates.

We can’t prevent a crisis from happening, but with a little planning and a lot of teamwork, you can come out the other side with an even stronger social community. If you need any assistance navigating a crisis on social media, we are here to help. We mean that. 

We know that most businesses don’t deal with online crises every day as we do. To show our support, we are offering free, 1 hour strategic consulting to any company who is stuck and needs direction on Social Customer Care. Our CEO and Director of Consumer Engagement will put their heads together and help you come up with a plan to immediately de-escalate any issues you are dealing with and help you prevent them in the future.

Want to connect? Ready to take control of your brand’s social platforms? Request your free session HERE. Or even better….

Rent our Social Customer Service Team!

Plug us in wherever you need help. Our experienced team can quickly jump in to help support your internal resources. We can handle everything from start to finish, or choose from the options below to create a custom Social Customer Care plan:

  • Assistance with setting up social listening 
  • Assistance with establishing an easy to execute and scale social customer care process 
  • 10-15 custom FAQs created specifically to your business and specific pain points that you can begin to use immediately
  • Dedicated Smarty team member(s) to monitor social platforms
  • Reporting and quantifying volume of mentions and interactions to give stakeholders a topline view of trends and activity
  • Assistance in planning for future high volume events 


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