This is why every brand needs to have a solid crisis strategy in place.

Here, media update’s Taylor Goodman chats to Nakedi Phala, social media and digital specialist at Tiger Brands, about social media crises and how to get your brand out of a bind. 

Let's mend your digital dilemma: 

How do you define a social media crisis? 

A social media crisis can be anything that affects the outlook of a campaign, brand, or product. It can also be a subjective matter depending on who you are or what [your] organisation or business does.

For example, a PR practitioner may be more concerned with matters of the brand's reputation, while a marketer may be fixated on the brand sales being affected. 

Being in the fast-moving consumer goods space, I've had to learn that what might be a crisis to one brand might not be to another. 
Let's consider this hypothetical scenario: 

A logistics company having unroadworthy trucks on the road is something that can trend on social media. While for an FMGC company, chances are less [that] if they had transport issues, it would be something that [would] make them trend on social media because logistics is not their niche. 

However, if a food product is not of satisfactory quality, then that's something that could lead to a social media crisis. 

Nevertheless, anything that an employee / employer of [a] business or brand does that is of a criminal nature [or brings] morality or ethics [into question] can bleed into [the] social media space and spur onto a crisis. 

What is your number one tip for brands looking to avoid backlash on social media?    

The simplest thing to do to avoid backlash during a potential or [full-on] crisis is with, what I call, 'the three teaspoons' to manage a crisis: 
  1. Don't be in denial [regarding] the situation at hand; you will end up igniting a crisis on top of another. 
  2. Respond with a dose of kindness to the audience [by] commenting and asking about the crisis. 
  3. Guard your emotions all the time. If you don't have the emotional intelligence, it will show in how you respond to the audience, [which] might attract backlash.
Lastly, someone who oversees social media platforms must understand the political climate of their country to avoid creating content that might offend people, people's beliefs and their socio-economic position. 

Your brand is involved in a major social media crisis. What steps do you take to put out the fire?      

Step 1

Acknowledge [that] you're faced with a crisis — being in denial can make one lack the ambition to deal with the crisis right there and then or ignore it. Meanwhile, it could have been resolved if it was acknowledged immediately. 

Step 2 

With big brands, organisations or individuals, the utilisation of social media listening tools will come in handy. They will help you measure the density of the crisis.  

If the business or individual is not that prominent, managing the crisis itself without the utilisation of a public relations or social media listening service can still yield results since it / they are not that "famous". 

Step 3 

Manage the crisis by sticking to the communications strategy at hand until the negative sentiment dies down. Remember to remain consistent until you’re satisfied that the crisis is dying down.

How do you think 'cancel culture’' affects brands?  

Cancel culture is big on social media, especially Twitter. However, cancel culture on social media is still new, even brands are 'breaking their brains' on ways to respond effectively to [it]. 
Those agencies and brands that have experienced the wrath of cancel culture have set a precedent that other brands or PR agencies can learn from and utilise [in their] communication strategy. 

How can a brand mend its reputation after being involved in a social media crisis?   

Depending on the nature of the crisis, in some cases, it is better to lay low for a while. In some situations, it is ideal to start [reparations] after the crisis has died down to run PR campaigns to wash away [its] effects. 

Study the sentiment of the crisis, most of the time the solution to restore the tainted image of a brand lies in the comments of dissatisfaction from the audience.  

Also, the appointment of a PR agency to share insight on campaigns can help restore the reputation of a brand, among other things. It will rebuild the relationship with the audiences or consumers to continue associating or buying your brand or services. 

What tips do you have for managing a crisis on social media? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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Need help mending your reputation after a social media crisis? Then be sure to read these Four effective ways to boost your social media presence