Responding to a Crisis on Social Media



I’m good at many things, but detachment isn’t one of them. I tend to fall in love with the brands I work with or do social media for.

For one thing, I don’t believe in doing something you aren’t tremendously interested in, which often leads to truly enjoying my work and my clients. Do not, I repeat do not, ever hire a company to do your social media unless you can actually feel their interest and passion for what you do. No matter their size, shape, or history, genuine care is the single most important aspect that will ensure your social media succeeds.

On that note, I recently finished working with a brand that I enjoyed very much: Their product was top-notch, and their social media was an absolute delight to work on. The day after the partnership ended, I was struck with terror at the thought that I may not have remembered to note this tip to the team assuming the reins of the brand’s social media (after 2.5 years of my work). The day I transitioned their social media was the day of the Charleston church shooting.

Social media was on fire with comments, reactions, and notes about this terrible, heartbreaking massacre at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. News outlets were letting tweets fly right and left, opinions were heated, and you couldn’t check a social media page without seeing a comment about it.

So, as a brand, what do you do in the midst of this type of crisis? How do you react to a crisis when it’s not, in fact, your crisis? PR teams constantly worry about crisis management—how to respond to comments when your company screws up. However, there’s not a lot of information about what to do when there’s a world crisis.

A few notes: The first, very most important thing to know is that in the midst of a crisis, you should never push out promotional content. There’s nothing more callous than what seems like a scheduled tweet you forgot, or some ironic sales pitch that stands in stark contrast to the world’s grief.

Additionally, if you do have scheduled tweets, don’t forget to unschedule or push them to another day. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever discuss your brand on a day something bad happens, but look at scale and what’s in the content of who you follow. If your newsfeed is filled with commentary, take that as a sign.

If that means you’re quiet on social media that day, it isn’t the end of the world. Missing a day of scheduled posting is exponentially better than publishing a product promotion that isn’t tactful. Alternatively, you can comment appropriately in reaction to the specific crisis. It’s a good time to have a strategist or copywriter on your side, because it’s always better to err on the side of good judgment.

People appreciate social media that is touched by a real person and that actually engages with the world around it instead of existing in a stark advertorial bubble. Take the time to connect with what your followers are talking about—even if it’s in a time of crisis.

Reprinted with Permission

Image Credit: CC by DFID – UK Department for International Development

About the author: Maggie Happe

Maggie Happe is a recent graduate of Creighton University and a contributor to Social Media Contractors.

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