May 2nd, 2024 | paul

Social Media Crisis Management

The world we live in today is dominated by social media. Businesses are buying into the power social media has to generate revenue and get eyeballs on their brands.

While these platforms are shown to have huge benefits, they don’t come without some pitfalls.

Businesses who experience difficulty in their business can come under scrutiny and their difficulties could be amplified to a huge audience thanks to the reach and sharability of social platforms.

Whether you run a popular live event or an online business, your brand has the potential to experience social media crisis management

In this article we will dive deeper into social media crises and understand why they happen and how you can handle them should you start to experience them. 

social media on a phone

What is a Social Media Crisis?

A social media crisis refers to a situation where negative information, comments, or events related to your business or organisation spread rapidly across social media platforms.

Due to the nature of social media, this has the potential to harm your business’s reputation.

These crises often involve widespread public attention, intense scrutiny, and can escalate quickly due to the viral nature of social media. 

Common Triggers for Social Media Crises

Social media crises can be triggered through a number of scenarios, these include: 

  • Customer complaints and dissatisfaction – Unresolved customer complaints or dissatisfaction with products or services can escalate into full-blown crises when customers take to social media to voice their grievances.
  • PR mishaps and controversial statements – Poorly managed public relations campaigns, insensitive or controversial statements by company representatives, or inappropriate advertising can ignite social media firestorms, damaging your brand’s reputation.
  • Product failures or recalls – Issues with product quality, safety concerns, or widespread product failures can trigger negative discussions on social media, leading to a crisis for your brand.
  • Data breaches and privacy concerns – Data breaches, leaks of sensitive information, or privacy violations can provoke outrage among customers, leading to a loss of trust and reputational damage for your organisation.
  • Environmental or social issues – Companies may face social media crises due to their involvement in environmental controversies, labour disputes or social justice issues, especially if these issues resonate strongly with consumers.

The Impact of Social Media Crises

Here are several key ways in which social media crises can impact businesses:

Reputation Damage

Negative posts, comments, or viral content on social media can quickly damage your business’s reputation.

Whether it’s a customer complaint gone viral or a PR disaster, the widespread nature of social media means that damaging content can reach a large audience rapidly, tarnishing your brand’s image.

Loss of Trust 

Trust is essential for your business. 

Social media crises can erode trust among your customers, investors, and other stakeholders.

If your consumers perceive that you’ve mishandled a crisis or acted unethically, they may lose faith in your brand and take their business elsewhere.

Financial Impact 

Social media crises can lead to financial losses for your business. 

This can occur through decreased sales, loss of customers, stock price declines, or costly legal actions resulting from the crisis. 

Rebuilding trust and recovering from reputational damage can also require significant financial investment.

Employee Morale

Social media crises can affect employee morale and productivity. 

Negative publicity can demotivate employees and undermine their confidence in the company’s leadership. 

Additionally, employees may become targets of online harassment or negative comments, further impacting morale.

Regulatory Scrutiny 

Depending on the nature of the crisis your business may face increased regulatory scrutiny or legal consequences. 

For example, if the crisis involves data breaches, privacy violations, or false advertising claims, regulatory authorities may investigate and impose fines or sanctions.

Customer Relationships 

Social media crises can strain relationships with your existing customers and make it harder to acquire new ones. 

Customers may express dissatisfaction or anger publicly, and how your company responds can either mitigate or exacerbate the situation. 

Failure to address customer concerns promptly and transparently can lead to lasting damage to customer relationships.

3 people on social media

Examples of Notable Social Media Crises

United Airlines

United Airlines faced a social media crisis after a video showing security forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked flight went viral. 

The incident sparked widespread outrage and condemnation, leading to significant reputational damage for the airline.


Pepsi faced backlash in 2017 for an advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner that was criticized for trivializing social justice movements. 

The ad sparked accusations of insensitivity and sparked a social media firestorm, forcing Pepsi to pull the ad and issue apologies.


Facebook encountered a series of social media crises related to data privacy and security breaches, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018

Revelations about the unauthorised harvesting of user data led to public outcry, regulatory scrutiny, and a loss of trust in the platform.

Johnson & Johnson

In 1982, Johnson & Johnson faced a social media crisis after several deaths were linked to tampered Tylenol capsules. 

The company’s swift and transparent response, including recalling millions of bottles and redesigning packaging with tamper-resistant seals, is often cited as a textbook example of crisis management.

Tips to Help Manage a Social Media Crisis 

Here are some tips to help you navigate through a social media crisis:

  • Have a plan in place – Develop a comprehensive social media crisis management plan before a crisis occurs. This plan should outline key steps, roles, responsibilities, and communication protocols for handling various types of crises.
  • Monitor social media channels – Stay vigilant by monitoring social media channels regularly for any signs of trouble. Use social media listening tools to track mentions, hashtags, and keywords related to your brand.
  • Act quickly – Time is of the essence in a social media crisis. Respond promptly to any negative comments, posts, or mentions to prevent the situation from escalating further.
  • Assess the situation – Take the time to assess the severity and scope of the crisis before responding. Determine the root cause of the issue and its potential impact on your brand reputation.
  • Designate spokespersons – Designate specific individuals or a team to serve as official spokespersons during the crisis. Ensure that these spokespersons are trained in crisis communication and have the authority to speak on behalf of the company. At GALA PR we have extensive experience with crisis comms management for those who run live events. 
  • Be transparent and honest – Transparency is key to rebuilding trust with your audience. Be honest about the situation, acknowledge any mistakes or shortcomings, and provide regular updates as the crisis unfolds.
  • Show empathy – Show empathy towards those affected by the crisis, whether it’s customers, employees, or other stakeholders. Acknowledge their concerns and demonstrate that you are taking steps to address the issue.
  • Stay calm and professional – Maintain a calm and professional demeanour when responding to the crisis. Avoid engaging in heated arguments or making inflammatory statements that could further exacerbate the situation.
team meetings

Experts at Social Media Crisis Management – GALA PR

If you ever find yourself amid a social media crisis then we hope that this guide help you know more about how to navigate it and give you a much better understanding.

As mentioned, we offer social media crisis management as a service for those who run live events.

We can swing into action at a moment’s notice, offering counsel, preparing responses, and ensuring our team is in place to deliver authoritative, responsive communications.  
We’ve worked with some of the biggest live event companies in the country. So if you run a live event and need crisis comms management then please reach out to us.