By: Kristen Casavale, Public Relations Assistant Account Executive

Applebee’s recent Facebook meltdown heard round the world is every social media content manager’s nightmare and it begs the question, is your brand prepared to handle a community crisis of this magnitude?

Most companies have some semblance of a corporate crisis management plan already in place and if they don’t, chances are they have a team of PR people ready to quickly put out any fires that may arise. However, in today’s day and age where information travels faster than you can log on to your Gmail account and social media never sleeps, it’s more important than ever to have a plan in place in the event of an online breakdown.

Here are some bare minimum rules that every brand should follow to help them deal with a crisis of this nature.

1. Make sure that everyone on your marketing and brand management team is well-versed in social media best practices and has a strong knowledge of your brand’s online persona. This will come in handy in a situation like Applebee’s where their social media manager spent most of the night trying to resolve the issue. It’s always good to have fresh eyes watching and responding to heated debates like those.

2. Have an internal plan in place on how to respond to negative social media posts of various degrees. You aren’t going to be able to plan for every possible catastrophe, but you can help to decrease collateral damage should something happen if you have a well thought out database of replies ready to go.

3. Decide on a pre-established team of social media crisis management first responders who will be in charge if the time comes. This team should include some variation of the following, a top level executive, a brand manager, a social media manager and a customer service representative. This group should be trained and pre-approved to execute the crisis plan from the get-go.

4. When posting a response, always remember to post your replies as a new status update. Do not respond to comments directly within the comments section. When you have a mass quantity of comments coming in, anything you write can easily be buried and never seen.

5. Do not delete comments unless they directly conflict with your page policy i.e. contains profanity or are some form of spam. Nothing feeds a fire faster on social media than censorship. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by the influx of comments you are better off walking away and coming back to it later than shutting it all down.

Those are just a few ways that you can help to be proactive against a social firestorm. There is no hard fast rule to fixing a problem of this nature, but the more prepared you are, the better chance you have of turning a bad situation into a good customer service case study.

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