Diffusing Your Small Business’ Social Media Crisis

Middle-aged man on his laptopOne big advantage of having a social media presence is the ability to engage with consumers on an individual level. The downside, however, is that these individuals don’t always behave the way you want, especially in the face of a crisis.

From bad reviews to public relations nightmares, crises come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some tips to help diffuse them, so that your business can come out on top.

Think First, Act Fast

Your business can’t prepare for every social media crisis, but it can develop an action plan that covers most of them. Take time to imagine what could possibly go wrong, and then determine how to address it using social media. This way, you’ll be prepared when the inevitable happens.

Consider the bane of every business owner’s existence: the bad review. From Yelp to Foursquare, the Internet is filled with negative comments that may be true, false, or lie somewhere in-between. Regardless of the validity, a bad review is out there for everyone to see. And you can’t just pass it off, or hope it blows over, because things don’t disappear easily online.

However, if you’ve considered a defense, you can quickly diffuse the situation. Perhaps high turnover among servers at your restaurant is causing miscommunication with the kitchen, leading to incorrect orders. A defendable response to this would be admitting that staffing issues have lead to some unfortunate mix-ups, but that you’re committed to making things right.

A possible Facebook response might read:

We apologize for serving you pesto rigatoni when you ordered veal scaloppini. Our servers pride themselves on getting things right, and we regret that we didn’t this time. Perhaps you’ll join us again for something new – along with a glass of wine on the house!

This type of quick, well thought out response not only diffuses the bad review, it provides you with a platform to let your hospitality shine through. It’s sincere, empathetic, and conciliatory, while still maintaining a sense of pride in work and ownership. And when other potential diners see this response, it’s also fantastic advertising.

Be Realistic, Respond Accordingly

While typing up a response on Yelp can be done in minutes, a larger crisis may take more time and effort to diffuse than you’re willing or able to devote. In this case, you can go one of two ways:

  1. Be proactive and staff up accordingly
  2. Be reactive and get by with the resources you have on hand

Here’s an example using your same restaurant: Let’s say during renovations it was discovered that asbestos was used throughout the building. While you made every effort to remove and replace it according to safety standards, rumors that you ran an asbestos contaminated restaurant started surfacing on social media.

To be proactive and respond to all tweets, posts, pics, and pins would require a team of skilled communicators working 24/7. Few restaurateurs have this kind of manpower, but that doesn’t mean you have to remain silent.

A simple, interruptive landing page on your website explaining the safety precautions you took during renovations and outlining how safe your newly renovated space is more than sufficient. By including a link to this page on social media, you can guide anyone who’s concerned to the truth – and stop the rumor mill from grinding away at your reputation.

A Final Word of Advice

While social media may seem complicated, it’s based on the principles of good communication. By listening well, being timely, being courteous in conversation, and telling the truth, you can successfully navigate nearly any social media crisis. Even in 140 characters or less!

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