Ethics Guide to Avoiding a Social Media Crisis

Kim Carabis
5 min readApr 12, 2021


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Social media is a great way for companies and brands to engage with their followers and promote their products or service. But it is that company or brand’s responsibility to be aware of what they’re posting on their social media platforms as this can impact them positively, or negatively. So what exactly is a social media crisis defined as? A social media crisis is an event that can have a negative effect on a brand, company, or individual’s reputation.

To avoid a social media crisis, keep these fundamentals in mind while creating content:

  • Know your audience: It is your responsibility to create engaging, factual content that is geared towards your audience. Building a trustworthy relationship is important to both your company and customers. Avoid misleading advertising as this can cause distrust with your audience. It is also important to have excellent customer service that is readily available to your audience. “Social profiles are frequently viewed as sales tools instead of powerful customer service platforms for building brand loyalty and customer care. By solely pitching products rather than having meaningful conversations with your followers, you could miss opportunities to address customer experience problems early on” (NPPA).
  • Stay Away from Elections and Politics: There is a lot of misinformation that gets circulated throughout social media; Facebook’s ethical dilemma surrounding elections and politics is a great example of what not to do. Companies want to avoid getting caught in a compromising position. If their social media is spreading misinformation, this will also cause distrust of the brand.
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  • Never Compromise on Privacy: Remember when Facebook was in hot water because they were selling user information without user acknowledgment? That is something you want to avoid entirely; your audience wants to be confident that their information is protected and understand exactly what information of theirs is being used and for what reason. “Employee sabotage and hacking are much more serious offenses. While businesses can, and do, shift responsibility for the malicious post, they’re often criticized for allowing their login credentials to be compromised,” (Keyhole Blog).
  • Be Transparent and Speak Truth: One of the most important things to your audience is that you are transparent and speak the truth. For example, if you are advertising a product that was sent to you in exchange for a review or with the intentions of advertising on social media, that should always be said in the captions or hashtags used for the social media posts. Your audience has the right to know whether or not there has been a monetary exchange or contract between the company/brand and the product.
  • Think Before You Post: This is extremely important in the world of social media. While tweets and posts can be deleted from the platform, it’s technically not “deleted” from the Internet; one post can turn a social media crisis into a catastrophic event. “Intentionally racist, sexist, or malicious comments made by companies or individuals ignite the worst type of social media crisis. These statements can significantly impact a brand’s revenue and reputation, and recovery could take years,” (Keyhole Blog).
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  • Avoid Click Bait: Clickbait goes along with misleading advertising; it uses a thumbnail that is not a part of the actual content in order to get more clicks/views. Once again, companies want to ensure that they are being honest and transparent with their audience. If users click on a link or post because the thumbnail looks exciting or provides suspense but is not actually included in the content, that is false advertising to viewers. Be sure to do things that positively impact the relationship with your audience, not hurt it.
  • Create a Crisis Plan: Having your employees on the same page is ideal if a social media crisis occurs. A plan will help prepare employees on how to handle the crisis in the most efficient way without creating more unnecessary chaos. It’s also ideal to create separate plans depending on how bad the crisis event is. Common mistakes like misspellings or liking inappropriate posts are going to be handled much differently than sexist, racist, or malicious posts. “Since social media is your front line of communication during a crisis, your plan should include specific guidelines to protect your brand,” (Keyhole Blog).
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  • Respond to Comments Professionally: Excellent customer service has a hand in what makes loyal customers. People want their voices to be heard and know that the company cares about what they have to say. Having a customer service team is essential to respond to as many customer inquiries as possible; it’s never been easier to send a Tweet or comment under a post that requires a response from customer service. Of course, customer service has to be done properly. Customers should not be confronted with hostile and defensive language, they want to know what can be done to solve their problem. This must be done in a professional way and given safe contact information if the situation requires it. “Deleting comments and blocking users may seem like the quickest way to fix a problem, but doing so could cause your customer to become more outspoken. Instead, make an effort to understand what caused the situation and show a willingness to make things right,” (Keyhole Blog).

In conclusion, social media can be a tricky business if you make it harder than it needs to be. Finding the right employees, policies, and ethics are important to avoid a social media crisis. Be sure to engage with and listen to your audience, respond quickly and professionally to comments and mistakes, avoid clickbait and misleading advertising, and be transparent and honest. Following this quick best practices guide will help your company/brand improve social media skills and help prepare for a social media crisis if it were to occur.


NPPA, Code of Ethics. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from

Keyhole Blog, 6 Critical Steps to Avoid a Social Media Crisis. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from