We just published The Guide to Social Media Monitoring. Here’s Chapter 3.

Why?

Your mother used to remind you that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Being a good social media listener will help you immensely in a crisis, allowing you to respond quickly to the right people with the right information in the right way.

A good social media listening program can preserve — and even improve — your brand’s reputation in a crisis.

How?

Discussions happening in social media can serve as an early warning system before an issue erupts. By using advanced tools you can observe new words popping up more frequently about your brands.

If you were an cell phone carrier, for example, the sudden appearance of the word “cancellation” along with “bad” and “customer service” should send you digging for more detail.

Keep an eye on negative mentions. If you suddenly see a huge increase in people badmouthing your brand, you have a crisis on your hands.

Listen Before the Crisis

Emergencies are no time to develop basic listening skills. Start now. If your brand earns the reputation of being a good listener that takes care of its customers, you’ll have a backup reservoir of trust to tap into when the crisis hits.

Beforehand, look for channels to use for crisis outreach. Where does your community hang out: Twitter, Facebook, or industry forums? Also identify and build relationships with key influencers who can amplify your response.

Social media can alert you to potential issues before they escalate. For example, community news sites around your facilities could help you prepare for the windstorm that could knock out a server farm. You’d be able to warn your customers of impending downtime.

Monitoring social media can shut down many crises before they get off the ground. You can deal promptly with an upset customer or rogue employee before the issue gets posted on The Consumerist.

Listen During the Crisis

During a crisis, monitor relevant conversations. What kind of volume and sentiment are you dealing with? Which people and which sites are critical of your brand? Knowing about the 5,000 angry posts on your Facebook wall will help you respond quickly and sensitively.

Monitoring social media will help you see the crisis from your customers’ perspective, shaping your language and adjusting your priorities.

Listen After the Crisis

Don’t stop listening just because the latest crisis has passed. You need to be aware of unresolved issues and lingering frustrations that need to be fixed. Don’t just passively listen: ask.

Monitor social media for sentiment around your brand, comparing levels before, during and after the crisis. Is your stock beginning to rise again? If not, why not?

Because attentive listening throughout a crisis shows you care about protecting your customers as much as protecting yourself, it can turn a crisis into a bonding experience with your community.

Case Study: Frontier Airlines

Last July 13, a massive hailstorm hit Denver, taking 22 of Frontier Airline’s planes out of commission. Frustrated customers idled in long lines at Frontier counters and even longer wait times on their toll-free reservation lines.

Marco Toscano, Senior Manager of Social Media, saw this as the perfect chance for his department to assist the reservations group by providing information and flight re-accommodations.

The team tracked down mentions of Frontier across the social web and reached out to re-book flights, spread updates, and let their customers know they were there to help.

“Customers on Twitter were so surprised at how easy we were making it to re-book that they were reaching out and asking for us to send them email confirmations because they couldn’t believe it could be done so quickly,” explains Toscano.

The first few days following the storm were challenging but soon the team at Frontier saw an increase in the “thank you” tweets, and was thrilled to see how grateful people were to be updated about flight number changes, delays and cancellations.

One of the 4,000 thankful customers they helped tweeted, “Another reason to fly @flyfrontier their @FrontierCare booked me a new ticket in 10 min rather than the insane line at airport. Awesome!” S

(Read the full case study.)

Read all 8 reasons your business needs social media monitoring.

Free Ebook: The Guide to Social Media Monitoring