What the Heck Is a Social Media Crisis Anyway?

In social media, we snicker a lot about how things can go horribly wrong on social channels - but what exactly is a social media crisis?
Mary Liebowitz
January 17, 2014 - 2 min. read

A social media crisis is an event that can have a negative effect on a brand’s, company’s, or individual’s reputation. It can be something that occurs offline and is then brought to social media channels, or it can begin on social media channels, and then spread. Examples of social media crises can be embarrassing photos, inappropriate postings by employees or ex-employees, or voiced opinions that can reflect negatively on a company.

As social media allows posts to be shared an infinite number of times and at a blindingly rapid pace, we consider negative events to be “crises”, because dealing with them can be like putting out a wildfire.

In social media management, these crises are something everyone should plan ahead for. Some steps to put in place can be:

  • deciding how you will deal with negative posters on public forums –  will you  hide, delete, ignore, or ban posters from your Facebook page, for example
  • clearly stating social engagement policies where relevant
  • having well thought out statements prepared ahead of time for any controversial areas that you may run into
  • clearly communicating your organization’s persona and social media guidelines to all employees that represent you on social media channels
  • having a plan of action in your organization for how social media crises are dealt with across departments and functions
  • ensuring you have social channel monitoring coverage after business hours, and during holidays


[Photo Credit: Nomadic Lass]


One of Falcon Social’s customers, the Danish retail warehouse, Bilka, has a healthy plan of action in place for social media crises in the form of “sh*tstorms” that can erupt on their Facebook page. Their page has over 84K followers, and a “Talk Nicely” policy that clearly states that personal attacks on their pages will not be tolerated. Bilka sells everything from apples to electronics, leaving them a wide range of potential topics to be covered in social posts. Despite the volume of comments they receive on their page, they respond to all of them. They re-state their policy throughout threads, while reserving the right to delete negative comments as they see fit.


Managing a brand often involves deliberate and thoughtful response to public statements, and dealing with potential crises before they get bigger. Your mother’s advice to “just ignore the rude things people can say” unfortunately doesn’t apply to social media. Social media’s real time reach means addressing gaps where information is missing, and correcting blatant misinformation. Most importantly, a social media crisis demands that companies take responsibility to communicate an apology when they’ve seriously screwed up.

Some organizations can appear to be conflict-avoidant, ignoring negative public comments – or they might just not be great at social monitoring (or communication, she whispered) – but public perception is the core of social media management, and social media crisis management should be planned for early on.

[Visit Bilka on Facebook, here: https://www.facebook.com/bilkadk]

How to Handle a Social Media Crisis

Here’s how to implement a crisis plan that works for you.