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Tips for dealing with image crisis in social networks

07/11/2012 -by:Silvina Moschini , CEO & Founder, Intuic | The Social Media Agency

Every business has its detractors who can find many ways to express and publish their criticisms, complaints and accusations hurting the brand. That is why it is important to know how to act in a crisis.


The immediacy and interactivity of social networks, great features for marketing, can become a double-edged sword when a company is a victim of accusations or criticism. Rumors and negative opinions can spread as a wildfire through social networks and affect a company’s image. The problem can have very different dimensions, ranging from a comment of a user who had a bad experience with the product to an accusation of fraud. In either case, the response should be careful, prompt and effective. 

The best way to cope with image crisis is to be prepared in advance. For this, it is always good to keep in mind some tips on proper attitude and first steps to take. Thinking clearly and working together are often the best decision. 


Keeping calm

Improvisation and impulsive reaction are not recommendable under any crisis. In social networks, inadequate response to negative rumors can magnify the problem in a matter of seconds. It is important to respond with a cool head and a previously thought-through plan of action. Make decisions after obtaining sufficient information on the problem. Try responding with facts and without attacking whoever made the first negative comment.


Identifying the crisis cause

It is not wise to rely on assumptions. It is essential to thoroughly investigate the problem: to find out its cause, the source of negative information about the company and its veracity. On that basis, one should determine what measures to take. If this is a serious charge, it is necessary to explain the company’s position and, if the charges are false, to deny them through a press release. If it is a negative comment, it is best to respond to the user who is looking for an answer. Contacting him outside of social network may be a good strategy, but even then, the whole situation and its resolution should be exposed through the same platform from where the conflict started. Thus, a company will have a chance to make a public response and to justify its image to other customers. 


Telling the truth

The audience will expect a response from the company, which is crucial to their decision to believe the negative comments. In case of no official version, they will not sit idly, but will get information from other less reliable sources. If they choose to believe the brand and then find out that the information was not true, there may not be a turning point, and they will lose confidence in that brand altogether. That is why it is important to meet crisis with humility and honesty. Certainly, the situation is not as black as some discontented users, media or competition is trying to paint it. However, trying to hide or deny the truth can be a gross mistake that will permanently damage the brand’s credibility. If a company has made a mistake, it is important to ask for forgiveness. Never attempt escaping the responsibility and blaming others. Some sincere apologies will leave the brand better off. 


Do not underestimate the problem

Not panicking does not mean not reacting. Hoping that the problem will resolve itself and negative comments will disappear without any repercussions is as big an error as reacting in a hurried and desperate mode. The audience will be expecting some answers, so making no comments will be viewed as a weakness of a brand to stand up to its critics. You cannot leave the company’s reputation in the hands of a dissatisfied user or unscrupulous competition. The response should be appropriate, educated and backed with strong arguments to show that the company is prepared to face the critics and negative comments. 

Social media endorse total freedom for everyone to say what they want, and therefore, companies are more exposed to criticism and negative comments. However, there are tools with which to address the problem. Having emergency plans and keeping calm are key factors that can make a difference between a passing comment and a permanently damaged reputation.