Marketing your business on Twitter can be something of a double-edged sword. When it’s done well, it lets you connect with your customers and establish a personality for your business that goes beyond the usual buyer/seller relationship. But it’s certainly not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. A lot can go wrong when you’re crowd-sourcing your marketing efforts, and a simple mistake or momentary lapse in judgement can quickly spiral out of control into the dreaded SOCIAL MEDIA CRISIS!

The fine folks at ActOn Software have put together this infographic outlining five levels of social media crises, from Low (a customer posts a snarky tweet about your business) to Severe (you or someone representing your business tweets something offensive and incendiary). In addition to explaining the different crisis levels, they also suggest a course of action for dealing with the issue.

Some interesting takeaways:

  • Severe: A good example of why it’s important to maintain control of your brand’s online image. If you’re going to let folks post on your behalf, make sure they are clear on your messaging and intent.
  • High: If people are publicly trashing your business online, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. The second worst thing you can do is to respond in a way that’s hostile, insulting, or demeaning. Even trying to explain your side of things can backfire if you come off as defensive.
  • Elevated: All it takes is a handful of people behaving badly online to lose control of your marketing efforts. If you’re going to base your campaign around a hashtag, make sure your audience is going to respond positively.
  • Guarded: Social media trends usually have a pretty short shelf life. Make sure you’re actually participating in the discussion and not just piling on with overt advertising. Also, make sure you understand the hashtag and that your posts are appropriate.
  • Low: Not every critical tweet will escalate into a High level crisis. Use discretion and common sense when responding to negative posts. And remember, the way you respond will probably affect your reputation more than the original post itself.