Once a crisis starts to develop, it can be challenging to contain. Brands can deal with the situation by using the most powerful tools. When handling a crisis, one of the most powerful tools for brands is social media.
Social media for crisis management allows you to see how the situation unfolds in real-time and act quickly. You can respond to questions and issue statements through social channels. You can manage the situation and your reputation with social media crisis communication.
Here are five tips on using social media for crisis management:
- Draft message templates
- Create a relevant hashtag
- Actively interact with your audience
- Use solid and authentic language
- Closely monitor the situation
Draft message templates
Sending out messages during a crisis comes with risk. Saying the wrong thing or formatting a critical post incorrectly can cause further damage to the situation. The solution is to draft message templates so the messages are professional and appropriate. This will also eliminate additional stress in trying to draft messages mid-crisis.
To draft message templates, you need to start by knowing your audience. Knowing your target audience helps you tailor your templates and content. Using your style guide can also help ensure brand voice consistency.
You also need to ensure you are using your branding effectively and sensitively. A huge logo on a social media post responding to a tragic event isn’t a good look. Considering the visual style of the template is also important. What are the visuals attempting to convey?
Specifications on images and post length, etc., are also needed. The images and text need to be optimized to communicate your message more effectively. You also need to optimize your template for different social media channels. Not all social media channels are the same, so different channels will require slightly different social media content strategies.
Create a relevant hashtag
Many customers will turn to social media to find information and ask questions when a crisis occurs. Creating a social media hashtag that is simple, direct, and intuitive will guide customers to the right place to get information. A good hashtag helps contain the crisis and is essential to your crisis communication plan. But make sure to get a second opinion on whether the hashtag is effective and inoffensive.
If, for example, your crisis was an interruption of the delivery side of your restaurant business, you might create a hashtag like #TKPizzaDeliveringAgain. The hashtag is effective as it mentions the business name and tells the customer the crisis is resolved. A good hashtag is a simple but effective way to use in social media crisis management.
Southwest Airlines is an example of a company using hashtags during a crisis.
In 2013, the airplane suffered a landing gear collapse that resulted in nine injured passengers. #flight345 was used to keep all the information about the disaster in one place, making it easier for people to access information.
Actively interact with your audience
If you interact with your audience on social media, you have more control over the crisis as you can establish the facts and prevent rumors and speculation. Actively interacting with your audience includes answering customer questions and directing customers to relevant pages on the website or alternative contact information. You can also interact with your audience by sending out social media posts and updates, but monitor feedback and ensure your social media accounts like Twitter or Instagram are verified.
An example of a brand that actively interacts with customers for online reputation management is Sephora.
When a Sephora store called the police to make sure famous R&B singer SZA wasn’t stealing from them, the singer took to Twitter to tell her thousands of followers what happened. The brand used social media to help alleviate the tension and embarrassment caused by the crisis.
When interacting with your audience, though, you need to ensure you don’t give a non-committal response that will only make people hate you even more.
In 2017, United Airlines came under fire after footage of law enforcement forcefully removing a doctor from Flight 3411 went viral. Dr. David Dao, who suffered a fall during the ordeal and hit his head, was one of four people the airline had chosen randomly to remove from the plane. United Airlines chose the four passengers after no volunteers came forward for a rebooking of their flight that would allow four of its personnel to board the same plane so they could get to their next shift.
United Airlines' nonchalant response to the bash on social media was not the best example of how to respond to people:
Moral of the story? You need to interact with your audience immediately, yes. But make sure you still think about the right words to use so you don’t come across as callous and robotic.
Use solid and authentic language
Speaking of using the correct language, the worst thing to do in a crisis is to use dry corporate language in your social media response strategies. You need to use solid and authentic language to show the company is engaged and responding to the situation. Your tone needs to be honest, transparent, and understanding.
Let’s go back to the United Airlines example. After the incident, CEO Oscar Munoz also issued a statement but apologized only for the overbooking. He appeared to take a more hands-off approach to the passenger removal:
Naturally, people weren’t appeased, prompting the CEO to issue a more sincere apology:
Notice the stark difference between the two statements?
To reach more people, you can also send an email using various bulk email providers to announce the steps you’re taking to address the issue.
But it’s not enough for you to say that you’re doing something. You also need to implement the promised solutions. Remember that customers and the general public hate empty promises. Follow-through is critical to crisis management and maintaining your reputation.
Closely monitor the situation
You need a good understanding of what is happening to react. The goal of using social media for crisis management is, after all, to control the situation and narrative on social platforms.
By monitoring your social media mentions in real-time, you will understand both the positive and negative reactions to the way you’re handling the crisis and make changes to your approach where necessary. You can use social media monitoring tools to determine this general audience sentiment. Have real eyes on the feed, too, though.
It’s also important to remember that you need to get actionable insights from the social mentions for proper crisis management. If you notice a particular negative being repeatedly mentioned, relay the information to whoever may be able to solve the issue, take accountability, and change the narrative.
Social media is one of the best tools in the crisis management toolbox. Social media is fast and allows you to respond in real-time, making it great for a crisis communications plan.
But you need to draft your message templates first. Monitoring the situation is important, too. Use authentic language and interact with your audience in your crisis management. Don’t forget to use relevant hashtags as well. Finally, implementing the solution is the most crucial part of crisis management.
Follow these tips, and you’ll maximize the use of social media for crisis management and, hopefully, stay in the good graces of your customers and the general public. Best of luck!