Social media has become an ever-present part of our lives. There’s a lot of great things about that, but social media can also be a dangerous place for brands. It seems as though every day some company is in trouble for something that was mishandled online.
It’s important to protect yourself and advise your clients to do the same. Law firms need to be particularly careful, as it’s especially important to be viewed as trustworthy by clients and prospects. Here are some ideas for heading off a social media crisis that affects you or a client that relies on you.
- Have a social media policy. The best advice is to plan ahead! Likely you’ve heard the old advice “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This is absolutely true when it comes to something as powerful as social media. Make sure you have a written policy in place that describes what is safe to post, what never to post, frequency of posting, any approval processes, etc.
- Practice brand listening. This will help you catch issues before they become bigger problems. As part of good reputation management, pay careful attention to your online presence and brand mentions. You can see trends and how your firm’s name is being mentioned. If you suddenly see an increase or decrease you can investigate what may be causing it. Don’t just set and forget social media – pay attention.
- Create a Crisis Communication Plan. The most important thing when it comes to a social media issue is timeliness. You want to respond as quickly as possible – ideally within the hour. Having a plan in place for when you will take action should something go wrong will help guide you. The plan needs to include:
- How you will communicate internally
- The process for distinguishing between an unhappy client and an actual issue
- Any approval processes you’ve already developed for posting
- Examples of already approved social media messaging
- Directions to your social media policy (for example, links to a page)
- Who is responsible for doing what, and on what timeline
- Immediately pause your scheduled activity. If you schedule posts in advance (which is a good practice!), you’ll want to stop those right away. If something actually serious is going on with your social platforms, it will look silly to post something unrelated, only fueling the fire.
- Acknowledge without getting defensive. If you’re able, as soon as you see what’s happened, create a short response (as short as you can) saying that you are aware of the issue and will release a statement soon. Then you have time to thoughtfully and intentionally develop a response. It’s important not to come across as angry or defensive, but people also want to see that you have noted the problem. Say as concisely as possible that you are aware of the situation, and then release more information when you are better prepared. Some things not to do:
- Delete negative messages too soon (this will be noticed)
- Immediately block anyone disagreeing with you
- Engage in arguments on social platforms – direct people to a DM or email instead
- Lose your brand voice by taking things personally
Of course, at the end of any social media crisis, it’s important to take stock of what you’ve learned and incorporate that learning into your policies and processes. Go back through the plans you created and see if you can update them based on what you discovered about how the problem started and what can be improved (or repeated) for next time. If you need help putting together a social media policy, let us know! Our goal is to help you navigate the all-important world of social in ways that improve your firm and its online presence.