In times of crisis, such as the pandemic, business communications can sometimes become unmanageable, controversial or chaotic.  

A tiny spark can set a forest aflame, and even a small negative comment on social media about an organization can harm its good reputation and business. 

If not prevented or if left unchecked, the message can go viral throughout the online community, then get noticed by the mainline news media and become part of the consciousness of the public. Many companies, especially during this stressful time, are facing such risks – and many are likely to.  

Why is there an increase in social media complaints during this pandemic era? How can executives prevent a crisis? And should you best deal with these situations? 

This article provides various viewpoints

Why the Spike in Controversial Social Media Posts?  

  • With a lot of companies shifting to Work from Home programs, employees are juggling their kids and home distractions with the work they need to get done. A situation like this is promoting behavior that is anything but customer friendly. 
  • Call center employees working from home may not have reliable systems that detract customer engagements. 
  • Social media usage has seen a considerable increase in these pandemic times: 
    • A 20% increase in social media usage 
    • A 40%+ increase in Facebook usage 
    • A 22% increase in Instagram usage 
    • A 23% increase in Twitter usage 
    • A 15%+ increase in YouTube usage 
    • A 26% rise in LinkedIn sessions for the quarter 
    • Record levels of engagement across the LinkedIn platform  

How to Prevent and Prepare for a Social media Crisis?  

With proper foresight and planning, executives can not only prevent and prepare for a communications crisis, but also manage, respond and recover from social media risks and emerge stronger using the following three key components.



Create structures, policies, and accountabilities to manage social media risk that includes social media usage policies, risk tolerance levels and a model for crisis management. Ensure the company’s culture emphasizes the policies developed for all aspects of its operations including:

  • Quality standards
  • Customer relations
  • Human relations
  • Safety standards
  • Emergency responses
  • Environmental concerns
  • Privacy standards, etc.


Identify, analyze and respond to social media risk factors in the best interest of its objectives by controlling possible future risk events through a robust risk management plan and processes. Following are the social media risk management process steps:

  1. Assess company’s risk among stakeholders – Pinpoint the likelihood and potential impact of the risks by engaging a multidisciplinary team.
  2. Evaluate the company’s ability to meet the expectations of the stakeholders – Determine risk capacity, appetite and tolerance levels.
  3. Close the gaps – Consider the controls necessary to mitigate the risks. Is your company’s reputation unjustifiably positive? Or vice versa, unjustifiably negative?
  4. Monitor evolving changes and expectations – Potential social media activities that may expose the company to risks.
  5. Have one senior executive in charge – Give one person the responsibility and resources to make things happen.


Leverage technology solutions designed to quantify and predict the impact of risks and fuel decision making based on risk tolerance levels. Such systems are helping companies from various sectors make data-driven decisions. 

Best Practices for Social Media Risk Management

  • Consistently demonstrate core values across social media.
  • Have data to show that the social media actions match with the brand promise. 
  • Maintain a portfolio of response strategies to choose from should a crisis arise.
  • Provide concerned employees with extra training in crisis management.
  • Have a well-developed social media policy and communicate the appropriate policies to employees.
  • Have processes to reinforce the social media policies to the employees.
  • Know what competitors are doing that you are not.
  • Use risk management tools that will inform strategy and mitigate risks.
  • Don’t try to profit from the pandemic. It’s something that should not be capitalized on.
  • Build a sense of community on your social channels to celebrate good news as long as it is respectful of the wider mood.

How to Deal with a Communications Crisis if it has Already Occurred?

Act Quickly and Decisively

If a crisis has already occurred, respond fast to ensure that it doesn’t take a life of its own and other readers comment on the original issue. Once on social media, it’s already too late to stop the bleeding. Immediate response stops a problem from growing and shows you are willing to resolve the issue. 

Do Your Research

Understand the negative comments. Research their case within your organization before further responding. Define processes for official statements and approvals or follow the instructions if already available in the crisis manual. Quickly author a clear, factual statement for the online community.

Steer the Conversation to a Different Adequate Channel

Offer to connect with the individual on a different channel giving assurance that the issue will be addressed.

Be Realistic – Honesty and Candor are Important

If a mistake happened from your side, it’s best to take charge and break your own bad news. Taking responsibility for mistakes is the foundation of trust. Executives and companies that have a reputation for honesty and transparency may continue to win trust. Their candor gives a clear ring of truth. 

Be Consistent and Accurate

The team must exactly know how to answer the questions and allegations. Compile all the appropriate information on the case to be able to answer accurately. 

Provide a Solution

Propose a solution to the problem. If not, the issue can stay online and spread at a much faster pace. 

Correct Misinformation

If the issue is exaggerated and you are interacting with it on social media, resolve it publicly, tone it down, and share the facts if there is misinformation. 

If Need be, Stop the Scheduled Posts During the Crisis

During a complex crisis time, avoid posting according to the regular editorial plan. 

Ensure Compliance with the Regulatory Requirements

Know the current regulatory requirements of the issue and the statutory requirements of the social channel to avoid non-compliance.

With proper governance, a risk management plan, process and the right systems for risk mitigation, executives can not only avoid social media explosions but also emerge stronger in the new normal. 

It is like a double-edged sword as if you don’t respond, things can go from bad to worse. If you do not respond in a timely fashion, the situation can worsen. However, it’s also an opportunity to showcase good practices and that there’s continuous improvement and honesty among your stakeholders. You will come out stronger as a company. Bad communication happens everywhere but these are times to show your integrity.

Perform with Integrity™! The MetricStream Way.

About the author:

Priyabrata Manages MetricStream University & ComplianceOnline functions for MetricStream which enable partners and customers through training, content and expert services.