Developing your Social Media Crisis Radar, Part 1

An angry tweet directed at your brand. An unflattering photo of a broken product or promise on social media. Demanding DMs in your inbox. Ah, the dance of the angry customer. Any seasoned social media pro knows them well. They also know that with a touch of sensitivity and maybe a coupon code, they can win over a disgruntled user. Or can they? Many a social media crisis started out looking like the above scenario … before becoming something bigger. Only those with a well-developed radar for crisis will be able to tell.

What is “Crisis Radar?” First of all, it’s not magic. It’s the ability to know the difference between negative chatter and true chaos. Someone with a well-developed Crisis Radar can catch a blowup when it’s just a spark. They can see a negative mention and know if it’s something more. That way, they can score the biggest possible advantage in crisis communications: early awareness.

Let’s start honing your Crisis Radar by defining the difference between chatter and crisis:

Social Media Crisis Communications

Clearly, two columns are not enough to contain all of the rage one can experience on social media. But these two distinctions do create a useful spectrum. The more a post has in common with the left column, the more likely it is just typical chatter. The more it has in common with the right, the more you have to worry about! These distinctions will typically exist even at the first few negative mentions.

The core difference between social media chatter and an early-stage social media crisis is the strength of the emotional reaction. The closer to a person’s moral center the offense is, the more likely they are to be upset. If the norm or moral offended is common, even if just in your audience, the more of a possibility of crisis.

It can still be challenging to tell if an unhappy user had a bad day or is about to burn your business down. That’s why your next step in honing your Crisis Radar is to understand what specific crisis your brand is at risk for. That way, you’ll know exactly which sentiment red flags you need to monitor for. In the next installment of this blog series, we’ll explore this process of sketching out crisis scenarios for any brand.

Savannah Whitman


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