If you haven’t found yourself asking this question already, it’s coming
To respond, or not to respond, and how the heck are we supposed to respond anyways? This is a question posed by those faced with a need for social media crisis management on a daily basis, and one to which many unfortunately don’t know the correct answer.
Do respond. Don’t hide. In many cases, a lack of response will be seen as a validation of the criticisms, or at best, an information vacuum. The sooner the response, the easier it will be to control the situation. Yet, a speedy reaction is often difficult. In a high-stakes situation where the facts are unclear, say so, but refute any untruths, and pledge to get out the supporting information as quickly as possible.
But don’t dignify baseless rumors. One exception to the above is the case of an unsubstantiated rumor, where you risk calling more attention to it by responding. The same is true of an Internet troll. In that case, let the community handle blatant misbehavior, foul language, or abusive comments.
Let your advocates defend you. In that vein, if you have trusted clients or customers willing to comment in your defense, by all means, let them. The essence of reputation is what others say about you in public, so third parties, even those who are not 100% objective, are your allies.
Keep in mind that when talking about advocates, we don’t mean you should get your entire family to hop online and blast detractors. Use your non-crisis time online to interact with, engage, and generally make yourself useful to stakeholders. That way, you have a group of advocates who are connected to your brand by the fact that they like you, rather than any obligation or financial link, and as a result brings a lot more legitimacy when they come to your defense.
As far as spotting trolls amongst stakeholders bringing up genuine complaints, it can take a bit of an eye. Look at as many social media crisis management case studies as possible, keep close tabs on the typical tone and sentiment used by your own stakeholders, and you’ll find yourself developing the ability to spot the differences between someone who wants to resolve an issue and someone merely trolling to get a rise out of you.
Social Media Manager