Those who keep an eye on the activities of users in social networks can often put out an approaching shitstorm before it ever develops. However, sometimes such a storm of outrage cannot be avoided – in this case, it pays off to be well-prepared. Find out here how you should react to shitstorms.
What is a shitstorm?
The word “shitstorm” entered the German dictionary back in 2013 and is defined as a storm of outrage in an online communication medium which, in part, encompasses offensive statements. Generally speaking, social networks such as Facebook and Instagram are where shitstorms start up, as well as in the comments section on blogs and forums. They can affect individual persons as well as companies on a whole. In worst case, the shitstorm itself becomes an event and is spread across all public channels.
Avoid a shitstorm: transparency and monitoring
As an aggressive tone of voice is normally the standard in social networks when it comes to shitstorms, many affected companies fear for their public image. The consequence: as they are scared of experiencing a shitstorm, they pull back from being present on the platforms. However, this plays into the hands of the competition. And the withdraw is not only a bad idea in terms of the marketing strategy – in the worst case, a company would not even notice an approaching storm of outrage and be completely surprised by it. Well-prepared shitstorm management can deter this.
This includes checking your own products or services, as well as key terms in the industry, every day on the Internet for any signs of a negative development. This not only requires the monitoring of your own channels, but also a scan of the relevant forums and communities.
If a topic is identified early on of having the potential to explode, it can usually be smothered before a fire starts. For instance, a company spokesperson makes a statement on the respective platforms – or even gets in touch with critical Internet users personally via social networks to address the problems openly.
Important for good shitstorm management: transparency and authenticity. A cover-up may be successful in the short term, but that changes when the facts come to light publicly. Then a shitstorm becomes even stronger. It often makes more sense to question the company politics and to adapt these if required.
Handling shitstorms: strategy to cope with aggressive comments
Despite all the measures for preventive crisis management, a shitstorm can hit any company without warning. In such a case, you need to be prepared and ready with the right defence:
- Do not ignore the shitstorm; instead, face the critical comments – whether these are valid or not.
- React quickly, but cautiously, to the accusations in social networks.
- Express your regret regarding the events that resulted in the shitstorm. If the critique is justified, admit your mistakes.
- Show in a transparent way how you want to correct the situation.
- Communicate proactively with the (special interest) media and explain your perspective.