Social Media PR: What to do When Your Website Goes Down

Website monitoring is essential in our digital age. If your website goes down your audience is just a few clicks away from influencing a large number of potential customers.

Yes, we’re talking about social media here and the PR glory or disaster that awaits you.

Social media can mean great things for your business. You can engage in a genuine conversation with your customers, learning instantly what people think and feel about your company and improve as a result.

Word of mouth now moves at the speed of light. And it’s a lot more influential than just bumping into your Uncle Ned and recommending the restaurant you ate at last night.

But, it also works in reverse. When things go wrong, your audience will talk. If your website goes down and you mis-manage the social media PR message, it can do real harm to your bottom line.

Yes, of course, some social commentary is just inane nonsense (just read a random Youtube comment stream). But people ignore the crazy messages. They do, however, listen to the calm, articulate criticisms of your company. And, by the way, they’re trusted way more than your marketing message.

If these complaints come from digital influencers (that’s people with a large audience and a trusted reputation), then the damage to your business can be severe.

Managing the Message: Prepare Your Social Media Response in Advance of Website Downtime

Knowing your website service is down immediately (by using a web monitoring service like ours) is a crucial step. But why don’t you get ahead of the game and get a ‘my-website’s-broken’ emergency communication plan in place before your website goes down.

Ok, you’re not necessarily going to know what will go wrong and why, but that shouldn't stop you preparing a few messages (some tweets and blog posts) that quickly inform your users that you’re on top of things and where to go for regular updates.

It’s all about control. Even if behind the scenes you don’t have a clue why your website has disappeared off the face of the digital world – perception is everything.

With poor social media PR you may be trying to say something nice, but all your customers hear is:

  • Our website’s down? That was news to us.
  • Sorry, we have no idea what’s going on.
  • We don’t really care that you’ve been inconvenienced.
  • When will this problem get resolved? Your guess is as good as ours.

So what does a good social media PR effort look like?

1. Your response has to be faster than a bullet fired from a speeding train. You want people to be talking about your great response, not complaining about your silence. So get your message out quickly.

2. You need to empathize with your customers. Your site has gone down (and you’ll talk about that) but you need to think about what your customers may be worried about. If your site has e-commerce, for example, perhaps they were in the middle of a transaction and are worried about their order. Think about this range of possible concerns and include specific references in your PR message.

3. You need to regularly update your audience, even if nothing has progressed from a technical point of view. Your customer’s biggest frustration is being kept in the dark. People are actually quite patient and understanding, as long as they’re communicated to regularly.

Put these basic steps in place and you’ll win the PR battle. And remember: don’t wait for your website to go down before you create a social media emergency plan.