Julia Schatz, Consultant

As 2012 begins to wind down, we begin to look back at the best of this and worst of that for the year. One article that really stood out to me was Mashable’s 11 Biggest Social Media Disasters of 2012.

In today’s digital age of media it is just as likely that a tweet can become newsworthy as a news story becoming tweet-worthy.  Obviously, these companies learned this lesson the hard way. As social media continues to grow as a business tool, the opportunity for a crisis to occur is growing with it. With this in mind, companies should not only have a social media plan but a crisis communications plan set in place.

A recent study released by Burson Marsteller found that 49 percent of business decision-makers across the globe believe digital communications has made their company more vulnerable to a crisis and 79 percent expect to experience a crisis within the next year.  Yet, only HALF of them said their companies have a crisis communications plan in place!?!

As a former employer once told me, “In a time of peace, prepare for war.” This idea holds true to for companies and their online presence.

It is critical for companies to create a social media plans that answer questions such as: Who can post? What is your company voice? How do you deal with a ‘rogue tweeter’? How do you respond to negative comments or feedback? Although people know social media is a relatively new platform for businesses, the tactic of deleting an account if something goes wrong is simply unacceptable today. It is important to remember that even if a crisis happens online, social media can also be one of your strongest tools to help remedy this situation.

I know hindsight is 20/20 but I believe many social media disasters could have been avoided with a little more attention to detail, some common sense and an awareness of current events. However, when these oversights happen – and they will happen – these are perfect examples of why social media and crisis communication plans are essential for companies to have in place!