Whether you post on a Facebook profile with 20 followers or are in charge of a big brand with 20,000, everyone should have a social media crisis plan. The recent outcry over Rolling Stone's decision to put Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover prompted this idea, because you never know when things will spiral out of control.
Here are six tips to staying sane during a social media crisis, and keeping your fans and followers happy at the same time.
Have a plan: This might sound like a no-brainer, but ask yourself: Do you have a plan if the worst happens? If your plan is to just deal with it as it comes, you need to do better. Knowing how you'll handle it and who will be in charge of what is of the utmost importance.
Step back and take a deep breath: Thousands of people typing in all caps on your Facebook wall IS VERY STRESSFUL! Then there are tweets and the posts on your other networks. Don't panic. Take a deep breath and refer to your plan. Then decide what you'll respond to first and make it happen.
Stop the auto posts: We all schedule posts ahead of time, but businesses tend to do this regularly. If you are in the middle of a crisis, the last thing you want to see if something completely unrelated just pop into the stream at the wrong time. Or worse, something that's semi-related. When things get hot, turn off your schedule and concentrate only on fixing the problem at hand. Once things have calmed down, then you can add new content but adding it in the heat of the moment makes it look like you're trying to pull one over on your followers.
Respond to everyone: This is a big one for me. When the comments came in fast and furious to Rolling Stone, the company posted its response on its Facebook wall and left it at that. There were no responses to the comments. No matter how repetitive and overwhelming those comments are, it's your job to respond to them. And your response needs to be genuine.
Don't copy and paste: Writing one response and then copying and pasting it in an attempt to address all comments quickly doesn't count. Nothing says "look at me I'm so lazy" more than copy and paste responses. Your responses can be similar, especially since you're likely to have the same message, but they need to be different. Your ultimate goal is to make sure that the people you are addressing know you read their complaint.
Assure and reassure: Once things have died down, consider a post to apologize and explain that you have taken steps to ensure this type of thing never happens again. It will go a long way to show that you care and are thinking about the future.
What tips do you have for staying calm during a social media crisis? And what questions do you have about social media? Tweet them to @scottkleinberg or @amyguth. We might select yours for use in a future column.