"Be prepared" is not just the motto of the Boy Scouts, but a credo that every company should adhere to if it wants to be successful. And that includes having a sound strategy for social media interactions, including handling crises.

As Altimeter Group's Jermiah Owyang explains in a blog post, a social media crisis "arises in or is amplified by social media, and results in negative mainstream media coverage, a change in business process, or financial loss." According to Altimeter research, 50 such social media crises took place between January 2001 and last August, 76 percent of which could have been averted with the necessary preparation and properly trained staff to respond to the situation.

Just like emergency services plan ahead for disasters, companies need to play out theoretical scenarios to make sure they are prepared to handle a real situation, should one arise. Brian Solis, principal at Altimeter Group, says companies need a crisis plan. And being transparent should be at the top on their agenda. "They need to have a culture of transparency and authenticity," Solis says. Additionally, companies' responses should show they've been listening to customers.