With brands increasing their presence on social media regular crisis are to be expected. Lately ‘shitstorm’ has become a term often used, whenever a brand ends up in an online crisis that turns into an online attack, because of the social media’s ability to spread rapidly to unlimited amounts of users.

The key to get properly through a shitstorm is to be prepared and to acknowledge the problem. Here’s how your company should act before, during and after a social shitstorm.


Before the storm:

Listen and prepare. In the first place you need to make sure, that you are up-to-date with your social channels. If you haven’t outsourced your social media to a management company, you should have a listening strategy, determining which employee is responsible and when. You should not think of the crisis as a possibility, but a certainty.

During the storm:

Always respond as fast as possible. The users are seeking a dialogue when they are criticizing or questioning something on your profile. If you don’t respond – other users will, and you don’t want others to fill out eventual information gaps with subjective conceptions.

Be consistent in your answers. Your employees should know exactly how to answer the questions or accusations, and they should do it the same way. Furthermore you must gather all relevant information on the case in order to be able to answer accurately.

The most important thing: never be silent. If you don’t engage in the dialogue it will seem as if you are ignoring the problem. In this case – no news are bad news.

After the storm:

Once you have lived through and survived the crisis you should restore the complete process. Document all status updates and comments. Analyse how the crisis broke out and more importantly – how it spread. What role did your employees play during the crisis and were they well informed? Evaluate the process and integrate what you have learned in a crisis communication plan for future hazards.

Wanna learn more?

We have already written more in depth on how to prevent a crisis and how to respond to it

If you want to be an expert on social media crisis take a look at the book “The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management” written by Jane Jordan-Meier. In here Mindjumpers provided a case story from a Danish shitstorm that hit the government-run tourist agency VisitDenmark in 2009 because of the viral video Danish Mother Seeking. This case illustrates both the fatal consequences of users reacting strongly to the ethical attitude of a brand and a creative campaign that simply went wrong.