Every B2B company, regardless of size and industry, will encounter the occasional crisis. Whether your company botches a product shipment or endures a network outage that affects the mission-critical software you deliver, your customers will be upset. In times of trouble, B2B companies can find high-dollar contracts at risk and strategic relationships in jeopardy, and these threats can shake an organization to its core.
Social media has raised the stakes when a crisis occurs, given that customers can communicate their dissatisfaction quickly and broadly. If not managed properly, social media can amplify a crisis and severely damage your business before you have even had the opportunity to troubleshoot the problem. But even though sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may make managing a crisis trickier, they can also help you communicate with your customers, demonstrate your commitment to them and bolster your reputation. In fact, a well-managed crisis can not only help you retain customers, but it can lead to new customers and additional deals.
Following are six tips for effectively managing a B2B crisis using social media.
1. Develop a Strategy
Crises emerge without notice and leave little time to do much more than react. To respond in a way that is best for your business and your customers, you must develop a crisis management strategy for social media before issues arise. Take the following steps to develop your plan:
- Gather your key team members and brainstorm the best strategy for responding in times of crisis using social media.
- Assign someone to draft the various communications that will be required, and determine what additional review and approval will be needed before they post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other channels.
- Establish parameters for follow up posts, including how frequently your team will post or tweet updates.
- Consider using email and your blog to deliver updates.
- Document your plan.
By the time the meeting is over, your team should fully understand the plan that will be set into motion at the first sign of trouble.
2. Acknowledge the Crisis When it Occurs
At the first sign of a crisis that impacts your customers, quickly gather an understanding of what is happening and set your plan into motion. In your early messages to your audience on traditional and social channels, make sure to communicate what steps you will be taking to resolve the issues, and confirm how frequently they can expect updates.
3. Be Honest and Explicit
Don’t sugarcoat the problems at hand or address them in vague terms. Be honest and explicit, and stand accountable. Social media has ushered in an era of transparency and it is one of the most important values in a crisis. If you receive questions or feedback from customers, respond in a calm, calculated manner to ensure they are aware that you are putting them first and that you understand their needs. All responses in social channels are considered public statements and can easily be shared. Another reason honesty really is the best policy.
4. Keep the Information Flowing
Keep the information flowing, and strive to provide meaningful social media updates according to the schedule and on the platforms that you have established. If there is no new information to report, let your audience know. However, make sure they understand the steps that are being taken. By communicating frequently, and in multiple places, your audience will be confident that you are working as hard as you can to resolve the problems.
5. Apologize and Close the Loop
Once the crisis passes, complete the due diligence needed to understand what caused the problems and create a plan for avoiding similar issues in the future. Once you have this information, craft an apology email or blog post to your customers that provides a full picture of what happened, why it happened, and how you will prevent this from happening in the future. Speak candidly and be direct. This is the stage of the process where you reaffirm your commitment to your customers and the relationships you have with them.
6. Prevent the Same Crisis from Occurring Again
Simply put, don’t make the same mistake again. If you do, you will drive away any of the goodwill that you created through previous crisis management efforts and further damage your credibility. This can prove troubling for existing clients and those considering engaging with your company.
Social media can be your company’s best friend during a crisis, and if used effectively, it can help you provide assurance to existing customers while building your reputation in a way that impresses prospective customers.
What best practices do you use to manage crises through social media?