Last week, an unfortunate “user error” left Telstra red faced and its users up in arms. The internet responded in the way it knows best, with excellent on-point memes like this one.

While perhaps not on the same scale, a social media crisis can happen to anyone, at any time.  Not all earned media is positive, but how you respond with your owned and paid media can make a huge difference to the number of haters and potential for the situation to snowball.


Or not. But have a roadmap in place that clearly shows when this should happen.

Sit down and really consider what could go wrong. What sort of negative perceptions might people have, and how could these play out on your social media channels? Then consider, if these things happened, what would you say and who would say it? At what point in the conversation could you take it offline (not all conversations should happen in public). Also spend some time considering what you’ll do if there is bullying or harassment in your community, or if there is any potential for people to behave illegally in your digital space.

A great tip I took from the Department of Human Services (i.e. Centrelink, Medicare and the like, whose day-to-day operations would look like crisis management to the rest of us) was to always remember that your social channels are an extension of any other traditional form of customer service: if someone rang with this complaint, instead of posting it on your facebook wall, who would they talk to, what language would be used, how would it be resolved?


This is as important during business as usual as it is in a crisis situation. You should always keep a keen eye over your community. Get to know what they’re like and you may be able to spot any signs of trouble and cut them off before they get out of hand. Last year’s #yourtaxis debacle is a great example of how a brand’s lack of understanding of its community created a social media firestorm.

If a crisis has hit, it’s not the time to go dark. It’s important to face it head on, and as soon as possible. That’s why a pre-approved and useable plan is so vitally important – you also don’t want to sacrifice for good sense for the sake of speed.
The timeliness of Telstra’s responses in the earlier stages of the service outage have come under fire by people in the industry and the media. However, we’re not sure of their internal processes and what steps they may have had to take to response. Sometimes a delay can’t be helped. However, if you know there’s an issue, but don’t have an official response just yet, a simple ‘We’re checking it out and will have more info to you soon’ will demonstrate that you’re there, you’re listening, and you’re taking action.


Do you use a scheduling program? Or have paid advertising? Definitely pause these for a while, as you respond to the situation at hand.

Also remember that not all crises are your own. Sticking to your regularly scheduled programming during a major world event can seem tone deaf at best, and incredibly insensitive at worst, creating a social crisis itself. Imagine if a hotel chain stuck to their programed facebook post promoting Sydney as the place to be during the Sydney Siege. How would that make you feel about the brand? Having a clear content calendar and structure, will actually allow you to be more flexible in these situations, as you know exactly what’s coming and, therefore, what to put a stop to.


Your customers and community expect you to be you. And, thanks to the well publicised work of community managers like Dan from Optus, or the Woolworths team, they also expect you to be clever about it! Knowing how your brand should talk, what emotions it should evoke and, yes, when it is appropriate to be a little cheeky, will make your life much easier.

Your customers/community know and trust you and therefore expect certain things of you. This is why poor Red Lobster has created their own social media crisis recently, with a poorly timed and tone-deaf response to a shout-out from none of other than the Queen Bee herself (Beyonce, obviously) in her newest release, ‘Formation’. The Bey Hive was not impressed – they were expecting something spectacular.

What they got after 72 hours was…well…I’ll just leave this here.

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