My Executive


    Jul 31, 2013

    How to survive a crisis on social media

    IN THIS age of social media, companies will never be able to fully prevent a crisis from emerging.

    On June 4, long-haul budget airline Scoot decided to drum up some publicity with the World's Longest Virtual Flight contest.

    The company probably expected the game to go on without a hitch, but the contest ended up a social-media nightmare because of a technical glitch. It turned into an overnight crisis, where frustrated "passengers" who were unable to "board" posted angry comments on Scoot's Facebook page.

    Crises like this can damage a brand's reputation instantly.

    Companies must realise and understand that the power of social media lies in its ability to amplify and spread views or sentiments. Preparation is imperative to diffuse and dampen any negative feelings.

    An effective social-media crisis-management plan follows a framework that consists of three major phases:


    This is the period before any sign of a crisis. Companies should prepare by:

    Appointing a social-media task force that comprises key employees and professionals.

    Developing an infrastructure to manage key areas like incident classification, communication channels and response time management.


    This is when a crisis hits, and both panic and stress levels are at all-time highs.

    The social-media task force should take full charge at this stage by:

    Seeking to understand the root cause of the crisis.

    Executing plans developed in the pre-crisis phase.

    Channelling all affected consumers to a pro-brand environment.

    Actively listening in the social-media space to identify further potential escalation issues quickly.


    Even though the crisis may have passed in this phase, the situation is still tense. Companies - especially the social-media task force - should not rest just yet.

    A post-mortem should be conducted to assess the adequacy of the infrastructure, crisis plans and processes.

    The team should identify areas that can be improved, in anticipation of the next incident.

    The key to managing a social-media crisis is to plan for it, prepare for the worst, and not to panic.

    Surviving a social-media crisis can only make your brand stronger.

    A month after the botched contest, Scoot re-ran it in a low-key but smooth and safe way.

    The airline has been actively responding to contestants through e-mail messages and on its Facebook page. A high-level spokesman even hosted two online live-chat sessions to answer queries.

    The airline paid a heavy price by agreeing to re-run the contest with the same prizes, but is back on track. If it did not, who's going to buy into it when the airline runs a similar event in the future?

    The writer is the founder and business director of social-media agency Blugrapes.