How to manage social media during a crisis

When a crisis arises, it can change everything about your social media strategy and wipe clean all the planned campaigns that you had in the works. Whether this issue is singular to a company misstep or as far-reaching as a global crisis, your social media needs to acknowledge this divergence from the norm. Don’t stress, we’ve put together a guide for how to handle the unforeseen and address it by using an informed, strategic social voice.

Pivot – Wondering what’s the worst thing you can do during a crisis? Answer: Continue promoting products and services like nothing has happened. This is not only inconsiderate of the customer and audience facing the issue head-on or in seeing it in other media, but also comes across as tone-deaf. Don’t just ‘stay the course,’ do the responsible thing and pause promotional campaigns and re-evaluate what’s the most important messaging you should be publishing. Don’t be afraid to shift your content during a crisis – acknowledging the issue at hand will foster brand sincerity.

Listen - Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and audience – what would resonate most with them during troubled times? We’ll bet the answer isn’t skirting a crisis with business-as-usual promotions or going radio silent. Instead, do some social listening to see what messages audiences are engaging with and craving as they, too, are facing uncertainty during a crisis. Now re-evaluate your content to match and serve these needs. This may look like a shift in social voice or creating several small, hyper-focused campaigns to address the issue at hand.

Support - Look to provide answers, compassion and comfort to your audience using your social media platforms by meeting their needs now. This means being transparent about your company’s operations and providing information and services to support your customers at this time. For example, as the world faced the COVID-19 pandemic, Honeywell transformed operations at a manufacturing facility to produce critical N95 medical masks for healthcare workers. During this time, Guinness also launched a Guinness Gives Back Fund for St. Patrick’s Day to ‘help communities where we live, work and celebrate’ and doubled its initial $500K donation goal to $1 million. 

Here are a few other ways to support your audience and customers in the midst and aftermath of a crisis:

  1. Provide online services and digital learning materials like free webinars and instructional videos.
  2. Offer extended sales or special deals to help customers acquire what they need more easily.
  3. Reaffirm public commitments and transparency to providing necessary services, products, funds and support during times of crisis.
  4. Communicate gratitude and appreciation for your followers and customers via comments and custom social graphics or videos to ensure their hardships are seen and heard.

Keep publishing (thoughtfully) - Continue posting to support a dialogue between your brand and audiences. While your content may need to shift to address a crisis at hand, your publishing behavior and post cadence should remain on a steady schedule. Adapt content as needed and use your captions and comments to provide context regarding the evolving environment around the crisis. Here’s a rule of thumb for ensuring crisis-oriented messages align with your company’s voice: keep social media simple, relevant and brand-aligned.

True, you can never anticipate when a crisis is going to strike, but knowing the steps for shifting your social strategy to address the issue and support your audiences and customers during this time will cut the stress of the situation in half for your team. Need guidance on how to construct your social strategy and align it with your brand? Check out our social media series on defining and creating content for your purpose.