How Do You Create a Social Listening Crisis Management Plan?

Brynne Ramella

Every business should have a crisis management plan in place — but does yours include social listening? With the rapid rise of social media, a crisis can brew online in a matter of minutes. But with social listening, you can get ahead of issues that may tarnish your online reputation before they even come to the surface. 

We’ll show you how to insert social listening in your crisis management plan in this article by covering the following sections:

Crisis Management Definition

Crisis management refers to the process that businesses take to prevent, prepare for, and respond to events that threaten to harm their organization’s reputation. This can refer to something like a natural disaster or a more localized corporate scandal. A crisis typically comes out of nowhere, meaning that your plan of action needs to expect the unexpected. 

That means your business’s crisis management plan should be as flexible and adaptable as possible. Every business is different, meaning everyone’s approach to crisis management will be different. It just matters that your crisis management team is prepared because the businesses with a game plan have the best chance of recovering from a crisis. 

What is a Social Media Crisis?

Thanks to the instantaneous nature of social media, many crises can now start on social media. It’s easy for a member of your team to post something in a matter of seconds that can go viral just as quickly. As Convince and Convert writes, a social media crisis isn’t just an employee, customer, or anyone else sending a mean tweet about your company. 

Related: How to Create a Social Listening Strategy

It needs to be a social media post that could have a potentially devastating impact on your company as a whole or even impact more than one company. Convince and Convert goes on to define a social media crisis by three distinct characteristics:

The purpose of a crisis management plan is to make sure you get ahead of an issue pre-crisis. Even the best social media management tools can’t catch types of crises as a thorough crisis management plan could. 

Using Social Listening for Crisis Management

If your company experiences a crisis, it will come at you quickly. But utilizing social listening tools in your crisis management techniques will ensure you’re prepared.

Social media posts can go viral in a matter of minutes. But a proper crisis management plan ensures that won’t be an issue for your company at all. Here are the steps that your team should be following:

Create a social media policy for employees

Sometimes a social media crisis comes from within. Take ESPN Analyst Gerry Hamilton. As PCMag reported, Hamilton tweeted about a high school linebacker and included a link in his post — but the link went to a porn site. Hamilton swiftly deleted the post, but not before it went viral online. 

A major company like ESPN likely has a social media policy in place for its employees. However, this is a prime example of why every company needs human resources to enact rules such as proofreading all work-related posts. This can stop potential crises in their tracks. 

Know the signs for an oncoming crisis 

IBM sentiment analysis Nuvi

Regularly monitor your social data so you can notice unusual trends. For example, Reputation’s social media listening tool watches for customer sentiment. In 2019, prior to our acquisition of Nuvi, they monitored IBM and noted that IBM experienced the largest negative sentiment spike it had seen in several months. This was clearly cause for concern, as it had the potential to turn into a crisis. 

Related: 3 Examples of Brand Crisis Management Done Right

Get to the bottom of the issue — If you think your company could be on the verge of a social media crisis, you need to know why. Your social listening tool should help you uncover those insights. In the case of IBM, Nuvi dove in further to discover the cause of that negative sentiment. They found that an IBM employee posted a tweet in which he listed several companies that had avoided federal income taxes for 2019. 

Once the tweet was found, Nuvi could see it created a moderate spread of negative sentiment — over 23 thousand shares and a thousand comments. Upon further examination, they learned that the negative comments were directed at the general list rather than one company specifically, so this example had a lower chance of developing into a crisis. 

Execute necessary crisis communication — If your company finds itself on the verge of a social media crisis, things may not end as well for your team. If that’s the case, you need a risk manager with a proper communications plan to address the situation. Tensions will likely be high if your team is in a crisis, so drafting up communications ahead of time to talk about your brand online the right way and carry out good social media customer service.

Fix the issue — This should be your top priority. Once you take the necessary steps, fix whatever issue caused the crisis in the first place. Continue social listening monitoring for the related keywords on your social listening tool to make sure sentiment around that issue has returned to normal. Reviewing those social media analytics should be a top priority at this point in the process. 

Learn from your mistake — Take the lessons from resolved crisis situations and alter your crisis management plan moving forward. Now that you’re post-crisis, you’ll know which keywords you should be listening for and what to do if sentiment around those keywords changes. Implement crisis management training for team members to ensure everyone is on the same page.

How Reputation Can Help You Get Started With Social Listening


Today, 91% of people believe that companies should fuel innovation by listening to their customers. But only 32% of marketing and customer experience professionals believe they have access to the information they need to understand customers’ needs.

Related: The Complete Guide to Social Listening

Reputation’s products and services have always given customers a comprehensive view of your customers’ interactions with your brand in one solution. With our acquisition of Nuvi, we’ve expanded our reach even further. Stellar social listening for business capabilities means that Reputation can now allow you to see what customers are saying in real-time across major social networks. That real-time capability means we can help you get ahead of a social media crisis in the following ways:

The queues are based on keywords, phrases, and more that help us auto-categorize the incoming engagements. When a message enters a queue, team members can claim them so there is no overlap. Employees can write internal notes about the conversation within the social listening solution. 

Interested in actionable insights that can increase your crisis preparedness? Take a look at our Social Suite to learn more. 

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