From trending topic to social shitstorm: 8 tips to internally manage a social media crisis

social shitstorm - crisis monitoring obi4wan

In the event of a crisis, it is important to know what is happening around your organization, even before you making a statement or analyzing who the most important stakeholders are. When it comes to a crisis, social media is an important source of information. Both your own social media accounts and all information posted on social media provide insight into the playing field. A social media analysis provides insights into claims from stakeholders, reactions from the public and the information that is taken over by journalists.

As far as timing is concerned, social media always holds the most up-to-date information and contains a large number of different opinions, because most stakeholders are active via these media. Despite the fact that most information is unverified, almost all stakeholders turn to social media for information. This makes social media a unique marketplace of opinions and facts from the masses, individuals, institutions, and official statements.

Social media channels offer various possibilities to manage a reputation crisis, especially when it is combined with a media monitoring tool like the OBI Brand Monitor. The role of social media can be divided into two applications: the role of social media as an information source and the role as a communication channel. In this blog we will focus on the first application.

 “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

Tip 1: Ensure there is a clear division of tasks within the crisis team

Planning is key. During a crisis there’s no time for discussion about responsibility. Who is responsible for monitoring and interpreting the information? Who is responsible for external communication to stakeholders and/or sharing information internally? Who needs to be in the loop? Make sure those agreements are made in advance, ensuring you have full focus on preventing reputational damage during the crisis.

Set up a crisis team today. Make sure that communication channels between those team members are in place and that everyone is aware of each other’s responsibilities. Hopefully, your organization will not be in crisis mode on a regular, so remind your employees of crisis procedures at least once a year.

Tip 2: Set up real-time dashboards and narrowcasting

Determine which people in your organization benefit from a real-time report on the crisis and which people need to be updated once every (half an) hour with further explanation and advice. For example, the spokesperson, CEO, investors, but also certain key stakeholders are important in this case. For that first group of people you can activate real-time monitoring using dashboards and narrowcasting. Do not forget to apply filtering of relevant messages and conversations.

Tip 3: Gain an overview of the crisis

What are you going to do? Are you going to respond, or not? And when you choose to respond, will this be done publicly by means of a statement or do you choose specific private circles? What are possible solutions? Social media analysis can be used to inform internal stakeholders and to respond specifically to what is actually happening. During a crisis, it is crucial to know what is being said about your organization in the media and on social media.

Tip 4: Determine what you need to know

By monitoring the topics listed below, you can respond accurately and sensitively to a crisis and, where possible, engage in the conversation. This is key in anticipating to sudden changes in the discussion that takes place.

  • Where does the discussion take place?
    • For example on news media, fora or Twitter and Facebook.
  • Is there a possibility it will get out of hand?
    • Is there a noticeable growth in negative sentiment within a certain time frame? Alerts will immediately inform you when a certain subject is frequently discussed in online media.
  • Which people are crucial in discussions about the crisis?
    • Examples include journalists, celebrities, politicians, industry influencers, staff and investors. Who is mentioned in relation to the crisis? And which people express themselves about the crisis? By identifying the top influencers in the crisis around your brand, you get a good overview of who says what.
  • Which media report on the crisis?
    • Do the messages spread to social media via news media? Or do news media pick up coverage from social media? By analyzing the source of the news, you respond quickly and limit any reputational damage as much as possible.
  • What are the trending topics regarding your brand?
    • By knowing exactly in what context your organization is mentioned, you can easily go along with the discussion and anticipate to any challenges that might occur.

Tip 5: Establish a social media monitoring strategy

A common mistake is to limit the broadness of search queries. It is useful to always look beyond the obvious. Do not just search for the name of your organization, but also look for important people in the organization (CEO, Members of the Executive Board, spokesperson etc.), synonyms of the brand name, product names and so on. By making the search term as broad as possible you get a complete picture of relevant messages and conversations.


Tip 6: Measure internal sentiment

Social media is not just about external communication. It is equally important to keep monitoring internal social channels during a crisis. By integrating internal channels such as Yammer, Slack and Sharepoint in your media monitoring, you also have a thermometer in your dashboard to monitor internal sentiment. Do colleagues worry about the crisis? Or do they agree with the statements about the organization? This information can prove essential for internal management of a crisis.

Tip 7: Set up an internal crisis FAQ

Setting up a crisis FAQ is important. It is more than a standard overview of questions and answers. It also contains a description of the event, reasons all known facts. Therefore, it is crucial to quickly collect all facts that are needed to respond adequately, with an aligned message to all various stakeholders. Social media monitoring plays a big part in making sure the story does not lead a life of its own.

Tip 8: Check your planned (social) content!

It is strongly advised to check your planned content on a regular basis, not only in the event of a crisis. Industry related (social) issues can also be an important reason to change or cancel certain posts. Check the content and see which messages might be better for a later moment. Stay away from commercial minded posts during a crisis. Think carefully about what the consumer is going to do when the timeline is filled with critical messages about an organization, alternated with advertising originating from your brand.

Are you curious about what OBI4wan can do for your organization in times of crisis or in the field of social media monitoring? Request a free demo here or contact us at

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