How Social Media Can Put Your Brand in Control of a Crisis

On Monday, April 27, a Reddit user shared an image of a Bud Light bottle that read: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary.” Part of Bud Light’s Up for Whatever campaign, which is designed to inspire spontaneous adventure, this line undoubtedly missed the mark, conjuring up themes of consent and sexual assault rather than carefree fun. You probably heard about it, because by April 28, just 24 hours later, the number of tweets mentioning Bud Light increased from 2,111 to 26,671. That’s a 1,163 percent increase.
It wasn’t just the quantity of tweets that increased. While just 8 percent of the tweets about Bud Light carried negative sentiment on April 27, more than 25 percent were categorized as negative on April 28. The increases in volume and negative sentiment make it clear that Bud Light was in the middle of a crisis.
But here’s the thing: just two weeks after the story broke, negative tweets about Bud Light have returned to the normal 8-10 percent range, and the daily volume of tweets has gone back to the normal, as well. What this tells us is that, despite experiencing a legitimate brand crisis, Bud Light has mostly recovered. The reason? Part of it has to do with the brand’s swift and authentic response. Rather than let questions and scrutiny simmer, parent company Anheuser-Busch released a statement and, importantly, a tweet mid-day on April 28 that acknowledged that it “missed the mark.”
Mistakes and crises happen. The question is how well your brand recovers from them. Fortunately, social media can help brands identify and control fiascos quickly. Here’s how.
Define what crisis looks like for your brand.
No matter how many approval cycles or safeguards are in place, there’s always the possibility that something goes wrong. Don’t wait until a crisis happens to make a plan for how to handle it. One of the first steps to crafting your plan is defining what a crisis looks like for your brand in the first place. Social media analysis can help you do this, since Twitter and Facebook are often the first places that consumers go to express anger or disappointment toward a brand. By researching social reactions to your own historic missteps or those of competitors, you can start to define various scenarios and understand their respective scopes. You might decide that X behavior on social means an apology tweet is in order, while Y behavior triggers the full-on crisis plan.
Always be monitoring.
Because social platforms are often the first place consumers go, your community manager will probably be one of the first to spot a crisis brewing. As part of your planning process, be sure that person is fully prepared and knows when it’s time to escalate an issue to a brand manager. Additionally, ensure that someone on your team is keeping an eagle eye on social conversation at all times. Simply monitoring your “@” mentions won’t tell the full story, since consumers might just use the name of your brand, product or campaign without any hashtags or “@” signs. Track each of these conversations so you can identify the early signs of issues before they become bona fide crises.
If a crisis occurs, don’t disappear.
When something goes wrong, consumers will immediately look to your social profiles for acknowledgement. They want to see that you’ve heard them, you’re addressing the issue and that you genuinely understand you messed up. Don’t just issue a statement – translate that statement into social posts, and be sure those posts sound like they’re written by a human rather than a corporate apology robot. Better yet, deploy real, actual humans on your team (like Bud Light did) to respond to incoming criticism. It’s not always feasible to respond to every tweet, especially for larger-scale crises, but make sure that your audience feels that it is collectively being acknowledged – and quickly. To ensure that consumers perceive your apology as authentic, temporarily cancel regularly scheduled posts. There’s nothing worse than having a serious apology tweet followed by something along the lines of, “OMG! How cute are these mini donuts?”
Track the impact.
Finally, even if it feels like the tide has passed, remember that crises can have a longstanding impact on consumer perception of your brand. Continue to monitor sentiment about your brand and social conversation surrounding the crisis. Not only will this help you assess whether there’s more action needed, it can also help you see which audience segments might still harbor negativity and whether there’s an opportunity to proactively engage those consumers.
As senior vice president of global sales and marketing at Crimson Hexagon, John is responsible for all go to market operations across marketing, sales and business development. Donnelly brings over 20 years of experience in the technology industry to Crimson, and has managed companies from start-up to over $700M in annual revenues.
For additional insights on monitoring the impact of a crisis on your brand, please download our DiGiorno case study here.

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