Nowadays, companies put a lot of emphasis on reaching the right audience online and maintaining an excellent relationship with them. To become more visible in the Google search results, they hire SEO professionals, and they take care of social media communication to keep their clients up-to-date with all the news on their offer. Keeping the audience engaged may not be easy when many competitors try to do the same.
Furthermore, to maintain great public relations, you need to know how to behave in social media not only during your daily routine but also when managing crisis situations, like a hurricane, flood, fire, or a pandemic. Also, your regular communication with the clients can be disturbed with a problem that is not a natural disaster, but your own company’s critical situation (like, for example, some legal accusations).
In order to help you with that, we have prepared a list of 5 lessons for using social media in a crisis moment. With having all of the best practices enlisted in one place, it will undoubtedly be easier for you to make sure you are doing your best. Keep on reading!
1. Do Not Forget about the Communication Basics
Even if you are dealing with a serious crisis, you should always remember about keeping all the communication basics in place. Take your time to think about every word you want to publish because in difficult situations, people tend to be more sensitive than usual, so they can easily catch out anything that was not well-thought. It is advisable to follow those basic rules of social media crisis communication:
- be open and honest in acknowledging the risk
- collaborate with reliable sources only
- be emphatic and compassionate
- admit uncertainty and ambiguity
- stay accessible for your audience
2. Recheck Your Social Media Calendar (and Possibly Pause It)
If you use social media in a well-thought way, you probably have a thorough communication plan prepared in advance. However, if a critical situation occurs, it has to be paused and reviewed all the way through. For example, if there was a hurricane, it would be best to resign from slogans saying that something will “blow your mind”, and during the pandemic, you should not state on your social media that your products are “finger-licking delicious”. If such expressions are not deleted from your posts, your company may appear tone-deaf. Even worse, in some extreme situations, you can even be accused of encouraging your clients to something that puts their lives in danger.
It is understandable that you may feel bad about resigning from all the posts you have scheduled, as you probably put a lot of effort in preparing and planning them but keep in mind that if there is a risk they will do you more bad than good, it is best not to publish them. However, it does not mean you have to delete them – just save them for later and post them when everything is back to normal, and you do not have to deal with social media crisis communication anymore.
3. React to the Crisis Quickly
Social media are far more complicated than press releases or conferences – there are many channels of communication, with real-time delivery and user-level control of messaging. To follow the rules of excellent crisis management, you have to adapt to the present fast-paced world and react quickly to any kind of a critical situation. On average, it is recommended to post something on Facebook within the first 30 minutes after the incident, and within 15 minutes on Twitter. So if you play your cards right you can even grow your followers in a time of crisis.
Also, always keep the audience-first approach and adapt the tone of your message both to the crisis severity and the standards of a particular social media platform. Understanding the people you are addressing is particularly vital in challenging situations!
4. Quote Reliable Sources Only
Sharing information on social media is so easy that the risk for misinformation is exceptionally high. Therefore, if you want to quote something related to the happening crisis, always keep in mind to use credible sources only. It is an excellent rule to follow it in any circumstances, but for crisis communication management it is especially important because sharing wrong information may not only harm your brand’s image but even be dangerous for your audience. That’s why you should work on a news media monitoring and fact-checking protocol for your social media team in advance so that they can always be able to use it in order to verify all the news they are planning to share.
5. Have a Social Media Crisis Communication Policy Already Prepared
A crisis usually cannot be predicted, but you can make some preparations in advance. With a backup plan already made, you will be less likely to panic and make mistakes that can affect your brand’s public relations badly. Therefore, organize a meeting with the employees responsible for your company’s social media and discuss with them all the critical situations that come to your mind – both those associated with natural disasters and your own company’s hard times. A well-prepared policy should provide a solid, but flexible response process, and should include all the necessary information, such as:
- an internal communication plan
- an emergency contact list (with, for example, your lawyers or executive decision-makers)
- guidelines on how to identify the scale of a crisis (taking into account to what extent it may affect your customers and your internal operations)
- accessing social media credentials guidelines (so that in case your social media specialist is affected by the crisis, someone else can find all the essential information quickly)
- your response strategy’s approval procedure
Managing a crisis is difficult in itself, and nowadays, you additionally have to deal with your image in social media while coping with it. It is crucial to communicate with your audience carefully in such a delicate time because every word can be used against you. At the same time, you should not be silent when something terrible is happening because your followers will consider it either indifferent or even suspicious.
Social media crisis management needs thorough planning, so preferably, prepare for it before a critical situation comes. When it is already there, react fast, and immediately review and change your social media schedule. Whenever you post something, make it reliable, and check all the information that you are not certain of. Social media crisis communication can affect your brand’s reputation to a large extent, so do never underestimate it!