Managing social media in a crisis
In today’s ‘always connected’ world, managing a corporate crisis requires a thoughtful and sophisticated approach when it comes to social media. A well-run social media program during a crisis is a tool to inform stakeholders and respond to conversations that develop among customers, employees and other audiences. Conversely, poor use of social media can exacerbate a situation, aggravate stakeholders and even cause regulatory problems.
The guiding principle for companies should always be to engage simultaneously across traditional and social media channels; do not wait for one to inform the other. Often, social media is used in a reactive manner only in a corporate crisis; there would need to be extremely good reasons to be proactive, for example if it was inevitable that the information would be widely published.
Social media can be used effectively to interact with other channels – for example, Twitter can be used to link back to more detailed materials on a company’s website. The power of this should not be underestimated; injecting a company’s own perspective at the right time during a crisis can change the course of the conversation.
It is vital to use a single, official account for each channel. Limit activities to ‘fight the fire where it is burning’ – meaning if a company is under scrutiny on Twitter, responding on Facebook may inadvertently alert a new audience to the issue. Avoid cross-pollination of channels.
Companies regularly come under fire for censoring debates; editing a customer’s comments is seen as particularly underhand. As conversations play out on social media, the company should assume the role of informing the discussion and creating a centralised ‘clearing house’ for crisis information, which is a crucial mythbusting tool.
Companies should take a sophisticated, analytical approach to identifying key influencers to target or engage with through a crisis. Twitter should be used as an immediate tool to respond to comments on a crisis, keeping the tone of any messaging personal and responsive. Twitter can be used to link to content on a company’s website or microsite that may have been created to house information related to the situation.
Use of relevant hashtags will ensure that the company’s voice is heard in the conversation, and can also be a useful tool when tweeting key information updates in real time.
In a crisis situation, a company’s Facebook page can be a useful news distribution hub. The opportunity to share live images, video content and even host Q&A sessions can have significant impact on the course of the conversation. Facebook can be used to summarise and disseminate key points from media releases or conferences, as well as offer an opportunity for more in-depth engagement.
LinkedIn can be particularly useful to direct information to employees and key suppliers during a crisis. As with other channels, LinkedIn can offer links to a company’s website or microsite, ensuring that officially released information is tightly controlled. Ongoing updates through a channel such as LinkedIn allows peers, employees and the market to remain informed.
A social media strategy which quickly identifies key influencers and addresses the situation where the conversation is most active is the first step to successfully navigating a crisis situation online. A combination of these tactics will ensure that audiences remain informed, while enabling the company to attain a level of control around the messaging in a corporate crisis.
We hope you enjoyed this insight into how to manage your social media accounts during a corporate crisis, thanks to guest blogger and social media expert, Geoff Fowlstone, Principal, Fowlstone Communications.
Connect with Geoff on LinkedIn.