Reacting to social media crisis

Managing A Brand’s Social Presence During Crisis

April 18, 2013

Randi Zuckerberg

Founder & CEO at Zuckerberg Media

Thousands of people across the nation raised their voices on social media to send their thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the recent tragedy in Boston. Concerned Tweets and messages from companies, celebrities, nonprofits, and public figures filled the blogosphere. When a crisis occurs, it is human nature to want to connect, offer support, and band together as we process what happened. That’s the power of social media; it provides a place to congregate and share comfort, a virtual “community center.”

During a crisis, companies have to be especially sensitive about how they behave on social media. These situations are extremely delicate, and what a brand posts on social media during a crisis period – though the content may be just routine tweets or posts – can easily appear insensitive and potentially cause a PR nightmare.

With a few tweaks to your social media strategy, you can create an appropriate crisis response.

Here are 5 points all brands should consider when emergency strikes:

Halt All Automated Tweets And Posts

Many companies schedule promotional Tweets and posts ahead of time, through services like Hootsuite. When nearly everyone else on social media is talking about the crisis, any unrelated posts will seem out of touch and distasteful. Make sure your communications team keeps an eye on the news and social media outlets every day, so that they are prepared to deactivate any should posts if a tragedy occurs.

Communicate With Your Team

Immediately notify anyone who updates social media on behalf of your brand, ensuring they’re aware of the crisis and halting unrelated posts for the time being. Delegate one person to be in charge of monitoring and approving all outgoing posts.

Post Your Support And Wishes – Authentically

You never want to appear as if you are using a crisis to promote your brand, or capitalizing on other people’s suffering to toot your own horn. For example, Epicurious posted the tweets below (“In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!”) and received many tweets in response saying their posts were insensitive and in poor taste. If your brand is going to post about a breaking news situation, and we highly recommend doing so, it’s best to keep it brief and authentic, avoiding anything that might seem promotional or self-serving.

Make Sure You’re Sharing Accurate Information

Today, many brands function as their own media companies online, regularly posting great content to engage their fans. During a crisis, many will repost an article or an image from elsewhere – but triple check your sources and facts to ensure the information is accurate. While there are many great news sources and charities you can direct people to, there will also inevitably be some fake charities, text message scams, and inaccurate information circulating. As the mouthpiece for your brand to millions of people, it’s important to do your homework and ensure the information you are sharing is accurate, as it is a reflection on your brand.

Lend Support And Spread Good Will

What can your brand can be doing to lend support? Genuine goodwill online can be the best form of marketing! For example, Google launched Person Finder for the Boston Marathon with two simple but powerful buttons: “I’m looking for someone” and “I have information about someone.” Since cell phone service was down in many places in Boston, this tool was enormously helpful for reuniting people with their loved ones. It was also a great demonstration of Google’s products, making it both a great help in the situation as well as positive marketing for Google. Find something your brand or company specializes in that can help, but just make sure it feels authentic.

We often forget there are humans on the other side of a tweet, a Facebook post, or a computer screen. But when a crisis occurs, it’s a good time to remind your audience that your brand is composed of actual, breathing people. It’s important to humanize both your brand and your message, reminding your consumers we are all going through the same anguish and confusion. Showing some genuine human compassion can in fact be the best brand message of all.

Photo Credit: Heisenberg Media

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