Using Twitter for Small Business Crisis Management

by | Apr 18, 2013

Recently, Twitter has been the bearer of bad world news.  It can also be the bearer of bad news for your business.


More often, people are turning to social media to vent their displeasure towards products, businesses, and people (#JustinBieberSlams).  It’s important to remember that transparency is key when running a successful crisis management campaign online.  Does everyone recall the February Burger King hack?  If you don’t, you may also be shocked to learn that Michael Jackson died.  Anyway, it’s old news, but we can learn from that hack.

Lesson 1: Be Transparent

Let people know what is happening as it is happening.  Show them that you’re doing what you can to manage the situation.  Diverging from the BK example for a moment, take a look at an article from the WSJ talking about entrepreneurs and Twitter.  One businessman’s webpage was hacked. Mr. Vaynerchuk, who owns New-York based Cork’d LLC, shot a video explaining the problem, linked it on his Twitter account, and also replied or DMed it to each person who tweeted or DMed him about the site.  He didn’t run away from the problem; rather, he explained it and updated his followers as to what is going on.  If you do anything, at least be transparent.

Lesson 2: Work Quickly

BuzzFeed shows that after an hour and some change, the BK account was suspended.  Some say this wasn’t fast enough.  Granted, an hour is an eternity for a company as gigantic as BK, but in reality, that’s pretty good considering it happened on a “national holiday”.  To put it into perspective, Cork’d didn’t get back to running until 8 hours later.  Make sure you’re thorough yet put the fire out as quickly as possible.  A fast response to the problem, shows that you care.  This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway..a quick reaction also quells the spread of who sees the mistake.

Lesson 3: Apologize

Both BK and Mr. Vaynerchuk apologized for what happened.  Be sincere, but if you can, laugh at yourself a bit.  At the very least, don’t take yourself too seriously.  If you pretend to be perfect, no one is going to buy it, especially when handling a catastrophe.

Lastly, don’t just use social media when something bad happens.  Shel Israel, author of “Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods” says to WSJ,

If you just go to Twitter when you have a crisis, you will have no followers and no credibility. […] The key to using Twitter effectively is to build trust with people who are relevant to your business.

So don’t shoot the messenger; put them to work instead.