5 Reactions to Avoid During Social Media Crisis Communications

social media crisis communications

In today’s digital world, companies large and small are judged on how they communicate with customers via social media. One nasty tweet from a business owner can easily go viral and bury a company. And a string of helpful, customer-centric Facebook posts can dramatically increase feelings of goodwill among a client base.

The magnifying glass is never clearer than when a company is in crisis. It is during those times when customers really watch to see how a firm responds to a scandal, the recall of a defective product or a bad review.

It is during those times that business owners need to be most careful.

Negative Social Media Crisis Communications

Don’t React Emotionally

It is normal to feel strong emotions when on the receiving end of an attack. Especially if your business is the culmination of your life’s work.

Whatever you do, try not to react with negative emotions. Doing so will always backfire.

A Case in Point

gordon ramsay

In May, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, owners of Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona, were featured on Gordon Ramsay’s reality TV show, Kitchen Nightmares. In the show, Ramsey (pictured above) was so upset with the state of the restaurant that he walked out, igniting a flurry of commentary on Twitter, most of it negative and aimed at Amy’s Baking Company.

The Bouzaglos lashed out on social media, peppering their company’s Facebook and Twitter pages with explicatives aimed at customers and even threats of legal action against anyone who wrote negative comments. The emotional reaction on the part of the business owners only added fuel to the already burning fire of negative viral comments and did nothing to help the couple’s business.

So what should you do if you are getting attacked and feel your blood start to boil?

Step away from your computer and take a minute to cool off. Talk to a colleague or impartial confidant. Only when you feel calm should you respond.

Don’t Lie

Just a few days after the social media blowup involving Amy’s Baking Company, the owners claimed that a hacker had taken over their accounts, thereby backing away from any responsibility.

Regardless if this is true or not, it is never a good idea to lie about anything. Even little lies can turn into major problems.

For example, telling a customer over Twitter that they will receive a call in 10 minutes and failing to call them for two hours is a lie. Tweeting that you have everything under control when you don’t is also a lie.

Keep things honest. Own up to your mistakes and be transparent. This is how you will come out on top during a crisis.

Don’t Continue Auto Selling

Do you schedule promotional tweets in advance?

If so, shut these down the second you experience a crisis. The last thing your customers want to see on your Twitter feed is an tweet promoting your latest product when that exact product just malfunctioned and everyone is complaining about it on Twitter.

Don’t Tweet Too Much

It is important to respond to customer comments in real time during a crisis, but don’t go overboard. Limit your communication to a few tweets and then tell the person that you’d like to take the conversation off-line with a direct message, an email or a phone call.

This will allow other customers to comment and prevent a feed clog.

Don’t Delete Tweets/Posts

The best way to handle negative comments on Twitter and Facebook is to face them head on. It can be tempting to go into your account and delete unfavorable comments just to make your company look better, but remember that everyone is watching. It’s best to respond with kindness than to sweep anything under the rug.

What negative social media crisis communications would you add that you’ve seen take place?

Angry Photo via Shutterstock

Image: Kitchen Nightmares


Yaniv Masjedi Yaniv Masjedi is vice president of marketing at Nextiva, a leading provider of cloud-based, unified communications solutions, headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona. He manages the firm's marketing and branding efforts and initiates programs related to brand management, demand generation, advertising, marketing communications and thought leadership.

17 Reactions
  1. The Amy’s Bakery story was such a train wreck when it happened that I couldn’t stop watching, but all the while feeling bad for the owners. They obviously care a lot about their business, but that passion was going the wrong direction.

  2. I think this is why there is a push towards having a professional run your social media campaign. They are impartial and their professionalism will come in handy when the business owner becomes stressed out.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ed. I agree that having someone who understands your business and is professional is key. Whether that person is outsourced or in-house, business owners are smart to remember that social media is a great way to communicate with clients, vendors and colleagues and that prompt and professional replies are a must.

  3. Business owners are human – well most of them, anyway! As such, I can sympathise with how the owners of the baking company felt under the torrent of mostly negative comments. It’s hard to walk away from that; it’s hard to not respond or not want to defend yourself immediately.

    I’m not condoning how they responded, but boy, I’m glad I wasn’t them. It must have been hard going. Some tweets can be verrrrry bad and make you question humanity.

    I was thinking: is there any training for business owners when it comes to things like that? I think it’s needed.

    • You make some great points, Ebele, thanks for your comment. I think it is true that business owners tend to have a deep emotional connection to their businesses, but I also think it is important to understand that not everyone will love your company and it is important (as hard as it may be) not to retaliate on social media or otherwise.

      To your question on training, I recommend checking out the Small Business Development Network. The SBDC is a collection of more than 60 offices around the country, run by the Small Business Administration, that offer free or low-cost trainings to small business owners.

      Here is the link: http://www.sba.gov/content/small-business-development-centers-sbdcs.

      • Hi Yaniv. I hear you. It’s unprofessional for a business to retaliate in that way. It’s harder when it’s a small business because you’re not far removed from your product, as opposed to a large company.

        Not everyone will love a company, and it’s to be expected, but some comments take it too far.

        Thanks for the link about training. I wasn’t asking for me – was just wondering if there was anything out there. Thanks though.

  4. The tweet too much part can be quite hard to do and so does with auto-tweeting. So many businesses are doing this that they usually lose more followers than gain them. But it is hard especially if you don’t have too much content to promote.

    • Thanks, Aria. I think timing is important when responding to customers on social media and through other channels. I recommend small business owners reply as soon as they can. Continuing to sell and/or promote your business when your customers are upset is not advisable.

  5. Hi Yaniv. Nicely said! I’d recommend setting a solid social media policy for brands and their employees to prevent a crisis. Like Questerre Energy, a well-known social media presence in the energy industry, has specific social media goals, strict rules of social media practices and standards for content. One of the most important is drawing a line between personal and professional life on social media to build credibility with target audience.

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