There are many ways to prepare for when your business faces a nightmare about company products, services, or maybe somebody in the organization just happened to say the wrong thing when people were listening. Here are some ways to prepare before the crisis hits.

Have experienced social media and community managers.

If by any chance you imagine social media is not all that important, then wake up and join the real world. It’s here, billions of people worldwide use it frequently, and if you are not using it effectively, you’re losing business.

Social media can benefit your business in many ways. It can help you develop closer relationships with your customers, turning them into people who feel a connection and loyalty to your brand. You can even run campaigns or events and get the word out to only the people in the area where an event will happen. And, you can monitor reactions from customers, competitors, and thought leaders in your industry, keeping you up-to-date. But you need someone who really understands both your business and social.

This is not something you just hand over to your teenager to take care of things. There’s a science to it, and it should not be done half-heartedly. Hire someone who is expert at social media marketing, public relations, content, and crisis management. If you can’t afford an expert, then buy books on those topics and start studying hard, but always plan to hire a full-time expert for the job as quickly as possible.

You’ve got an expert, now make sure you and the expert are the only people who can respond as the account manager of your social media accounts.

Too many companies have found themselves facing an onslaught of criticism because some random employee mistakenly posted on your site instead of their personal account, or they may have even posted on your site on purpose and said something they thought was an obvious joke only to find no one else saw the humor. If access is limited, mistakes like that become limited too. This also means you won’t find yourself having to come up with new passwords every time an employee leaves voluntarily or otherwise.

If just you and your expert have access, and the expert is the only one posting, then problems should be minimal, but you’ll still have easy access if the expert leaves your employ.

Always stay calm.

Remember you can disagree with someone without being disagreeable. Being rude or bullyish to a customer is only going to ensure they don’t return, and will likely tell all their friends and family about the incident. Provide good information to customers, be helpful whenever possible and treat them as if they are a family member you love and respect.

Staying calm needs to be true whenever you post online, even on your personal pages. State your opinion as such, do not attack or “flame” others. Being mean or attacking others so builds a reputation that won’t serve you or your business well in future. And if someone else is being totally out-of-line, it may be time to stop responding or even block them from at least your business accounts.

Make your site rules and response times known.

For small companies, you may not be able to respond immediately to a question, remark or request. So include in your bio information how long it generally takes before you’ll respond. Set a timeframe you can meet, but don’t make it too long after the initial request. Probably anything beyond 72 hours is too much though you could add that weekends and holidays are not included in that turn-around time. Move heaven and earth to keep to that commitment.

The other thing, make sure people know what is and is not tolerated on your pages or accounts. Tell them if you will delete inflammatory or foul language posts and stick to it.

Well, we know those tips are just the very top of the crisis management iceberg, but we’d love to hear any additional tips you have found are vital to keeping your company in calm and clear waters.