How to handle a shitstorm – before, during and after


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.



Make Your Digital Marketing Matter

Did You Know:

  • 4.6 billion pieces of content are produced daily.
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads.
  • 72% of marketers think that branded content is more effective than magazine advertisements.
  • A customer will visit at least 10 digital places to learn about a product or a service.
  • In two years, online video will make up 69% of consumer Internet traffic.

Social media is the number 1 activity on the web. We check our phones 110 times a day but our attention spans are only eight seconds long. This calls for every single piece of content to be great. Meaning that it needs to be relevant and valuable to the consumer.

The Secret to Success
No one has the secret recipe for creating really great content that goes viral. What we do know is that we need to start off with empathy. Of course every message has to be clear and concise. Saying only what’s important. But the real secret to success lies in understanding the consumer. What’s the context? What state of mind are they in when engaging with our content? What are their aspirations and goals in life?

63% of consumers are reported to defect from brands due to irrelevant content. Of those, 41% would actually consider ending a brand relationship due to irrelevance and 22% already have. So being relevant and engaging really matters. We need to let the consumers walk away with a feeling of satisfaction and value.

It’s All About the People
So make sure your content strategy is not based on vanity and ego. It has to be about the people sharing, commenting and caring. It’s about what matters to them. We need to make relevant content that’s useful and helpful to them. Preferably in an entertaining and engaging manner.

So remember to question everything. Ask yourself this:

  • Why would someone share this?
  • What could engagement look like?
  • How can we become more relevant, useful, helpful, entertaining and engaging?

…and also make sure to:

  • Challenge assumptions: listen, observe and understand your customers.
  • Realize that you’re competing against everything in the stream including pictures of food and cats.
  • Be impartial.
  • Respond and be helpful to your customers.
  • Create experiences that are delightful, memorable and shareable.
  • Make people smile, laugh and sometimes give them pause.
  • Design engagement and customer journeys across platforms in a seamless way.

Meaningful engagement

It’s not just about content marketing; it’s about meaningful engagement and relevant experiences throughout the customer journey. It’s about creating value.

If you want to delve deeper into the topics raised here we highly recommend you to read Attention is a Currency. Also we’ve previously made this little checklist for content marketeers entitled Branded Content: 6 Things To Remember before Publishing which might come in handy.