Community Management in a Social Media Crisis

On the social web, issues are often raised before the company in question is even aware of there being a problem. In cases such as these, the community manager is the first line of defence.

If you’ve ever felt the effects of an online PR crisis, you will be acutely aware that the effects can devastating, and that they can happen fast. However, if the issue is dealt with swiftly and in a transparent manner, then the damage can be lessened, and if handled particularly well, it can even be turned to your advantage. Speed and honesty are the key to this, but you you need to be particularly smart about these issues are handled if you want to gain any positives out of this type of event. Here are some of the ways in which a community manager can assist in this type of crisis:


Although a single negative tweet about your product or service could turn out to be an anomaly, there is a fair chance that it could in fact be a symptom of a deeper systemic problem. What a community manager can bring to the table is to help an organization get the inside track on a problem before it develops into a crisis, by monitoring social media sites, forums, and blogs for warning signs, and provide solutions for dealing with it.

Marshalling the Troops

In the event that a crisis is unfolding, the community manager’s main task is to get all the interested parties together – ie the people that work in the relevant departments of the company affected – and get them to understand their role. It is their job to keep a list of these people and marshall their efforts towards resolving the problem. Depending on the problem – and its severity – this could extend to several different departments including PR, legal/compliance, customer support, human resources, security, or even the executives of a firm.


After all the relevant parties in a company have been brought up to speed on the situation and informed of the need to work together, a plan needs to be put in place. Although the community manager might not necessarily be the person that leads this project in terms of execution, they play a critical role in outlining the plan of action and corralling the relevant parties into playing their part in the right way – and at the right time.

Responding to Customers

In a crisis situation, the community manager’s job is to work in tandem with the PR and customer service teams in order to ensure that the needs of customers are being adequately – and crucially, correctly – dealt with. If there is no obvious ‘magic bullet’ solution to the crisis, the least that they can do is to let customers know that they are aware of the situation, that they fully understand and empathise with their concerns, and that they are going beyond and above the call of duty to correct it.


Although it’s true that every customer is important, and this is certainly the message that should come across, it’s also true that some customers are more influential than others in the social media sphere. Simply put, there are some people that are more important to keep sweet than others, due to their extended reach on social media. One of the key responsibilities of a community manager is to know who these customers are, who they are most closely connected to in terms of your own company and the wider social media sphere. This can inform the most appropriate course of action, whether it means somebody making a personal phone call, email, or text to address the situation, or in the case where there is no immediate connection and a more direct, impersonal approach is required.

Calling it Quits – Publicly

The desired endgame of any crisis situation is that a solution will be reached that satisfies both parties. In these situations, it is relatively uncommon for the party that caused the commotion in the first place to widely publicize that a resolution has been reached. In this situation, it is the role of the community manager to make it known that the problem has been solved in a way that reaches as wide an audience as possible without drawing negative publicity towards the company they represent. This entails announcing a resolution, along with some guidance as to what the company is doing to prevent similar episodes occurring in future, and expressing gratitude to customers for their continued support..