Engage Your Social Media Channels During A Crisis

Crisis is an inevitable part of business -- and how your company handles an issue is the most telling. Social media can ultimately be the deal breaker when it comes to your organization’s ability to effectively communicate to your stakeholders during a time of adversity. Keeping an open, honest line of communication is critical -- whether you are keeping your stakeholders safe, informing them of an incident or apologizing for a mistake.

The sooner you engage your audience when crisis occurs, the better. In the 24/7 digital world, a few days of silence can feel more like a lifetime. And the longer you wait, the more time you allow negative energy to gain momentum. Being absent on social media translates into a company's lack of interest in their clients' feelings, questions, comments or feedback. Followers begin to question credibility, and before you know it, your company reputation is on the line. So instead of ignoring, engage social media during a crisis.

Now, when a crisis hits, the best way to use social media will vary on a case-by-case basis (as with any crisis communications plan). Each situation requires a unique perspective taking into consideration the company's core values, business goals and general audience.



Consider the following guidelines when posting to social media:

  1. Explain the issue thoroughly -- what happened and why it happened.
  2. Be accountable. Apologize -- and mean it! Forget the lawyer mentality of “innocent until proven guilty.”
  3. State your solution to the problem. List the steps you are taking to reach that goal -- and be specific!
  4. Mention any changes you are making within the company such as policies and procedures.
  5. State why you feel that the situation is unlikely to occur again without being over-reassuring.
  6. Mention what you are offering those who have been affected.
  7. Send regular updates to remain engaged. Simple steps of progress will show your audience you care about how they view your company, and you will begin to regain trust.
  8. Assure your followers that you will remain in contact about future risk -- and do just that.
  9. Social media never sleeps -- make sure you have at least one person designated to monitor your channels around-the-clock (multiple shifts may need to be assigned, depending on the size of the company). Empower those in this role to respond as necessary. Having someone reply immediately to your stakeholders will prove you are serious about costumer service, and makes it easier to address any additional concerns that may arise so they will not escalate into another crisis.
  10. Sympathize with each stakeholder’s situation. Listen to how people are reacting to the initial crisis and base your comments on their feedback. Then notice how your audience replies to your posts in order to continually improve your responses.
  11. Reply to as many -- if not all -- comments posted on your social media channels, especially during a crisis. Responding to people individually shows you sincerely care.
  12. If you don’t have an answer right away, honestly acknowledge uncertainty. Reassure them you will look into it and get back to them -- stay true to your word and follow up quickly.
  13. Keep it personal. This isn't a place for stiff remarks. Speak simply and do not use corporate terms. Your stakeholders want to feel like they are speaking with a person, not a robot.
  14. Never delete comments or block a customer (unless they are harassing/threatening you). Instead, address them directly, so your whole audience can see. Most likely another one of your followers noticed the difficult question asked or the unsatisfied post; and they are watching and waiting for your response.
  15. Develop partnerships with organizations that are active on social media, who are also important to your company. These key players will be an asset, since they can post to their audience on their channels about your response.
  16. After the crisis has settled, be careful not to dive immediately into hard-selling right away. When the time is right to begin another social media marketing campaign, be sure to start with a soft sell.

By communicating effectively during a crisis, you will protect your brand, reputation and company image. How you handle a crisis will directly affect your ability to retain customers -- and that isn't something you want to wing. Whatever the predicament may be, a resilient company is one that is able to maintain client relationships. Take the event of a crisis as a chance to prove your level of competence and compassion to your stakeholders through the use of social media.


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