Make no mistake about it, being stuck in the middle of a social media crisis is no joke.
One misplaced comment, one ill-advised product launch, one badly-timed or insensitive message can potentially derail years of hard work on building a brand or individual’s credibility.
Suddenly, social media is no longer a representation of the world around us - it’s a tidal wave of fury, criticism, negative blog posts and biting jibes. Whether it’s justified or not, it is what it is.
It’s like you've invoked an ancient, multi-headed, pitchfork-wielding Hellbeast that types at the speed of light, and when you’re caught in the headlights, it can really, really play havoc with your brain.
With that in mind, I’ve decided that, rather than putting together a practical guide to avoiding social media crisis, or planning for one, I’ve decided to put together a six-point list of things you can do to avoid burning out during one.
I can guarantee that at some point in your career, you will be faced with a social media crisis. Here are six tips to storm-proof your brain and your soul, as well as your brand, during a social media crisis.
1. Be prepared: the old adage is true - Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. From my experience, even in the fastest-developing social media crises, you need to formulate a plan. Play Devils Advocate, and think of every single piece of negative feedback your fans and followers could throw at you, and formulate a response to them before the event, so that you have notes and updates that you can share with people when they feedback to you. Next, ensure that your team are fully-briefed. As a manager or social media lead, you need everybody to be plugged into your knowledge. This will help when it comes to point five on this list, so keep it in mind. Start up a Google Doc of suggested responses (not canned responses - writing them out individually may be a chore, but believe me, people know when you've sent them a boilerplate holding message or response. Don't treat your audience like idiots).
If you don't, you could find yourself in the middle of a type-1 shitstorm.
2. Keep Calm: As Social Media Manager, people will be looking to you to provide clarity, insight and guidance in the middle of a crisis. What they don't want to see is some red-faced, arms-aloft goon waving his or her arms around and shouting at the screen.
It's going to be stressful: we know that. But no matter how bad it gets, and how quickly the messages roll in, remember that you are the social media professional. You know how to navigate this, and your company need to trust you to guide their customers and their reputation through any social media crisis.
Take deep breaths. Remember that you are the professional. Remember that most of the time, the customers don't see you as a human - they see you as the brand. They are not having a pop at you personally, so remove that from the equation - a challenge in itself, but keep telling yourself that it's not you they're mad at, or calling names.
Keep your management in the loop at all times. Update honestly, and tell them whether the news is good or awful. You owe them that, and that's what you're hired to do. Be the asset your company hired you to be, and trust yourself.
3. Positivity: Whether you are part of the team, or heading up the team, it is vital that you maintain a positive atttitude throughout any social media crisis. As I said in point two, people are going to be pretty mean to your brand, and potentially people at your brand, whether they mean it or not. That can be draining for individuals
Be the beacon of light in your team. Be the person who greets people during the crisis with a smile. Crack jokes to kill the tension. Remember that, above all, that this may be a job, but you spend more time with the individuals here than you do at times with your nearest and dearest. So treat them with care and respect, and try and make their day a little better whenever you can.
4. Look after yourself: When things are tough at work, and Twitter, Facebook and even Pinterest seem to be ablaze with negative feedback, remember to know when to look away. Remember to still take regular eye-breaks. Get at least 15 minutes of fresh air every couple of hours. You can take your phone or tablet with you can't leave your work behind, but make sure you walk, keep the blood flowing, and keep the air fresh in your lungs. It will make a difference, I promise you.
5. Your downtime is as important as your work time: Nobody can be a 24/7 social media automaton. You need food, sleep, family, external stimulation and exercise to remain sharp and focussed when you are in work. So know when to switch off, and make sure that you do switch off. Deep into a social media crisis, make sure that you have a shift or buddy system sorted, so that you are not wracked with anxiety if you think something may happen when you are not at work.
Use that time to do things that YOU want to do. Do not check your emails, phone or social media accounts. Things are being dealt with by your shift-buddy. You can just focus on being good to yourself.
Spend time with your loved ones. Go for a walk. Go to the gym. Play football. Play games. Eat out. SLEEP.
This is not selfish - it is self-preservation. You cannot be an effective social media professional if you are burning the candle at both ends from a work perspective. You will become a drone. You will make mistakes. People will get pissed at you both at work, and at home, and with good reason. If you can't look after yourself, how can you be expected to look after other things?
Self-care is paramount. Remember this. PLEASE.
6. This too shall pass: Remember #HasJustineLandedYet? What about #susanalbumparty? What about #hmvXFactorFiring? #PricelessSurprises? No? You probably forgot - they were all well over two weeks ago, which is ancient history on social media.
The one good thing about a social media crisis is that it can literally be here today, gone in an hour. It's like rain. It can be heavy, light, patchy or torrential, and can last anywhere between two seconds and, in Noah's case, a really long time.
But it does stop. And it will pass. The sun will come out (tomorrow, tomorrow...), and you will be able to go back to something like normality at some point in the future. You will have a quiet day again. I promise you. You just need to weather the storm, and remember that this is an amazing learning experience! It's not every day you get caught up in a social media crisis - what have you learned from it? Write down what you and the business have learned from the situation. I bet it's a lot.
All of what you have been through in a social media crisis can be applied in other aspects of your role. Remember, you are guiding your followers, and your business, through this crisis. Take notes, take feedback, and share what you have learned.
Make sure that your social media crisis wasn't for nothing. Make sure you and the business you work for come out of the other end stronger and more robust.
A good social media crisis can break you, but it can also MAKE you. Trust me on that one. I've seen a few.
Do you have any tips that you'd like to share? What self-care tips do you have for people and businesses going through a social media crisis? Share them below.