Social media can seem like the final frontier for some brands: it’s exciting, the potential is limitless and – for some people – it’s naturally utterly terrifying. It’s not surprising that brands are wary as there are many examples of how poor online customer relations have turned minor issues into full-blown disasters. However, there’s no reason to avoid using these ever growing channels – the key is simply to be prepared, so here are five top tips for managing online communities and avoiding a social media crisis:

Open Your Eyes

The first step in being a social media guru is to simply make sure you’re aware of what’s being said about your brand – you can’t manage something if you don’t know it’s happening! Ensure you regularly check what your customers are saying about your brand online and try to spot any trends in feedback or frustrations. Similarly, try to pre-empt users’ reactions if you know a provocative piece of news is going to break, so you’re ready to respond quickly.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

When you’re used to broadcasting the most flattering stories about your brand through PR and advertising, it can be shocking to hear unfiltered, direct feedback. This is what social media offers, and at first hearing that users don’t love your brand quite like you do can be difficult to swallow. Some users may, in fact, be downright rude for no reason at all, but the faster you realise that you’ll never please everyone, the faster you’ll be able to let it go and concentrate on the positive results.

Know When to Respond…

The key to having confidence in a social media crunch is being able to identify what type of situation you’re dealing with. Usually, negative comments can be identified as either straight-forward questions, constructive criticisms, genuine complaints or trolling. The first three generally require a response, whereas the latter should be ignored as trolls thrive on being acknowledged and will never be contented. 

…And Respond Quickly

If you’ve decided that the user requires a response, the faster you can get back to them the better; most consumers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within two hours. This doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers immediately though: don’t rush to respond to a complex issue without the proper information, as this will only frustrate the user more. Instead, send a message that lets the user know you are looking into the issue and will get back them as soon as possible. This is acceptable and shows the user (and your wider network) that you are listening.

Be Human

Everyone knows that there’s nothing more frustrating than being stuck on the phone with a robot when all you want to do is speak to an actual person. This rule applies to social media too; no-one wants a standard response that has been sent to multiple users – it’s frustrating and insincere. Instead, show your users you understand they have a problem and you are genuinely looking to fix it.

And, finally, it’s always a good idea to have professional guidance from someone who isn’t as closely associated with the brand as you are. This can help to get an outside perspective and give clarity when you’re trying to respond.

Do you have any tips to add?