Advance your social media skills and career


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Course Introduction

Take the Hootsuite Social Marketing course and develop foundational social marketing skills to grow followers, engagement, and business results.


With the fast pace of social media, a negative event or customer experience can quickly escalate into a public-facing issue. When this occurs, it’s common for those in charge of interacting through branded social channels to be at a loss for how to respond properly, which can result in messaging that’s damaging to your brand’s reputation, or no messaging at all. To minimize risk and prepare yourself for emergency situations, it’s essential to develop a critical response plan. A critical response plan should consist of four parts - a social listening protocol to catch negative sentiment about your brand as it arises, a list of designated decision makers who are authorized to communicate on your company’s behalf, a step by step action plan for dealing with a particular scenario, and pre-approved messaging that can be used should a critical incident occur. 

Social Listening Protocol

To start, develop a social listening protocol to listen for negative mentions of your brand - this will give you the opportunity to address a problem before it snowballs into a crisis.  With Hootsuite, you can create streams to track your brand name alongside terms that may signal a problem. For example, if you’re a software company you may search for “YOUR BRAND NAME” and “hacked.” If you’re a local grocer, look for “Your Brand Name” and terms like “spoiled”, “expired”, “rotten.” Include common misspellings of your brand name to catch mentions you would have missed otherwise. Outline who will be responsible for monitoring this activity and at which point it should be brought to the attention of a higher-up. By catching negative sentiment quickly, you can prevent the situation from escalating further by responding quickly and offering to take the conversation to a more private communication channel, if need be. 

Key Decision Makers

Next, list the names of key decision makers, their titles, the responsibility they have in a critical response scenario (such as approving messaging or liaising with the media), and contact information. These individuals must be authorized to develop and communicate critical response messaging on the behalf of your brand. Think about how these people will be reached in an emergency situation, and if they happen to be unavailable, who will take their place. Think also about the duration of a potential crisis - if it lasts for several days, how will you handle it? 

Action Plans

A critical response plan should also include a few action plans to address scenarios that may arise that are particular to your business. Say one of your employees sent out an offensive tweet from your branded handle and it got picked up and broadcasted by the media. Or, you’re a tourist attraction and a grave injury occurred at your park - how would you deal with news of the incident quickly spreading on Twitter? Brainstorm the negative situations that could occur and write down the actual steps you would take in order to address them. If your company has a PR agency or in-house team, it will be helpful to align with their policies. 

Pre-approved Messages

Lastly, develop pre-approved messages that you can use in each scenario so you’re not scrambling for what to say in the heat of the moment. Consider the tone you would use - does your message show that you appreciate the seriousness of the situation? If a mistake was made 

Looking for more? Checkout our blog and learn How to Manage a Social Media Crisis: A Practical Guide for Brands