How to Deal with a Social Media Crisis

While it can take years to build up a good reputation, it only takes seconds to ruin it. Nowadays, a single angry customer can start a social media crisis for your company.

What to do when a social media crisis strikes

The true danger of a social media crisis is in its ability to go viral very quickly. Here are the steps you need to take to deal with a crisis on social media and prevent it from doing more damage to your company and brand.

Act immediately

A social media crisis needs to be dealt with immediately. It’s important that you accept responsibility as soon as possible. You should also always have someone in your team ready to respond to incidents that can happen outside office hours.

British Airways faced an incident where an unsatisfied customer complained about their service on Twitter and then promoted the tweet.

The British Airways team addressed the issue too late, after thousands of people already saw it. Not addressing the issue promptly caused them to lose customers.

British Airways social media crisis

Be completely honest and transparent

If the crisis is a result of a mistake made by you or someone on your team, you should be honest about it and apologize to your audience.

This is exactly what KitchenAid USA did when one of their employees accidentally posted an offensive tweet to the company’s official Twitter account instead of to their personal account.

KitchenAid social media crisis

KitchenAid crisis follow up

KitchenAid Twitter crisis

This helped clear KitchenAid’s reputation in the eyes of their customers.

KitchenAid Twitter crisis resolved

Move the discussion to private

When dealing with comments from angry customers, you should under no circumstances ignore them or hide their comments. However, you should move the discussion somewhere private (email, Facebook inbox, Instagram DM, etc.) as soon as possible.

Once you start a private discussion with your customer, address their concerns and try to handle the situation tactfully.

Rethink your schedule

Make sure to reschedule or pause all content that was supposed to go live until the crisis occurred. The worst thing you could do in the middle of a crisis is to try to promote your product or service.

Post an official statement on your website

In case of a major crisis, you should carefully craft an official statement and post it on your website. Make sure to explain the incident in full detail and tell your side of the story.

Learn from the experience

Your social media crisis most likely won’t last longer than twenty-four hours. However, it’s crucial that you try to learn from the experience. Think about what caused the crisis and how you could potentially prevent it from happening again in the future.

How to prepare for a social media crisis

While the above tips can help deal with a crisis once it happens, it is better to prepare for a potential crisis in advance. Here are three things you should do to prepare for a social media crisis.

Build a “Crisis Team”

Train a team of employees who will be in charge of social media once a crisis happens. These people should be ready to react to a crisis as soon as it occurs.

Create a crisis management plan

Having a crisis management plan in place will allow you to handle a social media crisis in a quick and efficient manner. In your plan, make sure to include detailed instructions on what each member of your company should be doing during a crisis.

Simulate a social media crisis

Practice dealing with a crisis by simulating different crisis situations. This will help to get everyone at your company ready for when an actual crisis occurs.

How to prevent a social media crisis

You’ve learned how to deal with and prepare for a crisis on social media. Wouldn’t it be great if you could prevent it from ever happening? Use the following tips to make sure your company never experiences a social media crisis.

Create a social media policy

Create a clear social media policy for your company and make sure to get all your employees familiar with it. A good social media policy should contain guidelines regarding:

  • What kind of content is acceptable for posting on social media (and what kind of content isn’t)
  • How to handle questions and comments about your company
  • General social media etiquette

Monitor social media for mentions of your company

Use social media tools such as Social Report to help you monitor what other people are saying about your brand or company and recognize a potential social media crisis before it happens.

You should monitor social media for any mentions of the following:

  • Your company name
  • Your products
  • Competition
  • Industry-specific keywords

Stay informed on current events

Many brands make the mistake of not staying up to date on current events and posting promotional or entertaining content on social media in the middle of a tragic or important event.

The person handling your social media should stay on top of current events and trends in order to prevent a mistake that could cause a social media crisis.

Don’t try to capitalize on tragic events

This one seems like common sense, but brands keep making this mistake over and over. A tragic event such as 9/11 isn’t something you should be using to sell your products.

Miracle Matress social media crisis
Just no.

In 2014, the hashtag #WhyIStayed started trending on Twitter. It was used by victims of domestic abuse to tell their personal stories. DiGiorno Pizza thought it was a good idea to use this trend to promote their pizza.

DiGiorno Pizza social media crisis
It wasn’t.

Avoid controversial topics

While you might think that your customers share your views on a particular topic, discussing controversial topics using your company’s social media account is almost never a good idea. Some topics you should stay clear of include:

  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Foreign policy
  • Most social issues


Even the biggest brands sometimes don’t know how to handle a social media crisis properly. The most important thing to do is to address the crisis as soon as possible and to be honest with your audience.

You should also try to prepare for a social media crisis by creating a crisis management plan and training a group of employees on the proper way to handle a crisis. Completing these steps will equip you and your team with the necessary skills for successfully dealing with a social media crisis.