Whether it’s a dreaded Tweetstorm or an Instagram attack, when commentary goes south on social media bad things can happen fast. Hard-won reputations can be tarnished quickly, and repairs can be hard to make.

What do you do when so much is at stake? If your company doesn’t have a social media policy, then it is easy to act on impulse and quickly post a fiery response. But actions taken in the heat of the moment can cause long-lasting damage. 

The crisis communications experts at Red Banyan urge caution when it comes to social media, which can spin out of control at a moment’s notice.

When things go south on social, hard-won #reputations can be quickly tarnished. Here are 5 tips to maintain control: Share on X

Here are 5 tips to help navigate a social media meltdown:

  1. Don’t panic. This too shall pass. Take a deep breath and think before you post. Share with care, especially when it comes to responding to negative or false comments that have been made about you or your brand. Suspend judgment and take time to figure out the motivation behind the attack. Is it an attention-getting ploy or is there a real problem? The motivation is what will focus your response. Do not give in to feelings of shame, terror or indignation.
  2. Refrain from fanning the flames. It’s easy to want to fire back when someone assassinates your character or slams your business, especially if the criticisms are inaccurate or unfair. Stay the course and hold back. Emotion-driven responses are never helpful and can cause more harm than good. 
  3. Share positive content. Create a stream of proactive content for your target audience and begin sharing it immediately. Flood your social media channels with the kind of news about your brand that you want publicized. Take control of the narrative away from your detractors and own it.
  4. Publicly address the attack and then take the conversation offline. This technique may or may not solve your problem, but it will let your followers know that you are aware of the attack and are trying to get to the bottom of it. What do you hope to achieve? Figure out your goals and let them drive your responses. 
  5. Use social media tracking programs to monitor commentary. Services like Google, Talkwalker and Mention allow you to set up alerts that let you know when you or your brand are mentioned. It is a good way to keep tabs on what is being discussed on social media.

Social media can be incredibly useful when it comes to marketing your business or brand, but online attacks can cause lasting damage. If you find yourself in the crosshairs of a vicious social media attack, stay calm and focused and respond with thought and care. Above all else, do not panic.