How-To Deal with a Crisis Using Social Media

Crises come in all shapes and sizes. Recalls, national emergencies, weather anomalies, political strife and the list goes on and on. In case you’ve been living under a rock the past week, though, a major freeze front has gripped the U.S. and hasn’t let go. It’s real life Frozen out there, people, and it’s a crisis. You may be wondering, however, what does that have to do with social media? Well, people are inside! They’re keeping warm indoors, and they’re spending even more time online. Whether checking weather statuses, news breaks, or just passing time, more people are online.

Note: This does not mean it’s a free-for-all, mad-dash to amp up social marketing, campaigns, or promotions. Do not try to capitalize on crises.

Here’s how you should deal with social marketing during a calamity.

1. Have a plan.

In particular, understand which audiences you want to reach and which social media tactics are most appropriate; for example, LinkedIn is effective for a business audience, whereas Twitter or Facebook might be more suited for reaching consumers in general. Develop strategic relationships with key audiences before the crisis hits. Know who you must communicate with when a crisis hits.

2. Be proactive not passive.

3. Listen and then respond to the concerns of the public in general or your audience in particular. If you communicate regularly and appropriately, people will be more likely to continue to use that particular channel rather than others where you may not be present.

4. Be available to the news media. The media represent an important audience as well as a channel, and media companies and journalists are using social media extensively themselves.

5. Communicate with sympathy and understanding. Crisis communication typically takes place in an environment in which the audience is full of uncertainty and sometimes fear. The first rule should be to emphasize with those who have concerns. AKA Be human, be honest and transparent. Social media platforms are supposed to be authentic, so “corporate speak” is usually not appropriate.

6. Provide guidance to members of the public on avoiding risk or harm in the wake of the crisis. In instances where the crisis could have implications for the wider community—a product recall or a fire, for example—then the company should make every effort to limit the damage by providing pertinent information to the appropriate stakeholders.