In today’s world, social media is one of the most, if not the most, important communication tools. It’s a way to instantly connect friends and family, while also giving a voice to companies in a way that was previously only achieved via advertisement and press release. Developing a social media strategy for your business is no easy feat and requires levels of foresight and brand awareness—the only thing that could make it more of a challenge is when a crisis arises and suddenly, the entire plan needs to be reevaluated.
As we’ve all seen during the COVID-19 crisis, brands have been venturing into uncharted waters to adapt to the times. Some have done this effectively, some not so much.
The best way to adapt at a moment’s notice is to be prepared, which is why we have compiled our five top strategies to keep your head afloat during tricky times.
Streamline Information to Ensure Consistency
During a time of crisis, information is constantly changing and updating, even on an hourly basis. Therefore before any information can be disseminated, streamlining your internal communications is foremost. With different people acting on different social channels, one employee on Twitter could be replying to a follower with yesterday’s news, while another is posting an updated response from your CEO via an Instagram story. Clearly, this would look unprofessional and confusing to anyone trying to get updated information, which is why having a plan in motion is so important.
Start by having a clear hierarchy of what information should come from whom. Massive updates, for example, may look better from the voice of a CEO or President, while customer service responses can continue as normal. If confronted with a difficult question via, say, Twitter DM, who should your employee turn to for a clear answer?
A good way to ensure that your company’s senior management is not suddenly bombarded with social media queries is to use a single place to communicate company-wide updates—a morning Zoom call, a constantly pinging Slack channel…explore different options before it’s necessary to see what works best for your company.
Reevaluate Existing Social Media Plan
It is important to remember that a crisis is not normal and posting as if business is working as usual looks irresponsible (and makes it seem like senior management is burying their heads in the sand). Start by acknowledging the crisis from the get-go across all channels. Then, look at your scheduled posts and focus on the next two weeks of your social media calendar. If the post could in any way look tone-deaf, rethink it. Social media sites can be a brutal place, and even if one previously scheduled post makes its way onto someone’s feed, it could be a damage-control nightmare.
This isn’t to say that every single part of your social media plan needs to be re-written or deleted. A lot of the time, many of the great ideas your team had scheduled can get moved to later down the pipeline, once things have calmed down. That’s a silver lining to a crisis, as it means tomorrow’s great work is already done for you.
If you have posts that are time-sensitive (and still applicable during whatever crisis you may be in), a simple re-write can make whatever was being promoted still appear to the masses as appropriate. To achieve this, look at your crisis-related posts, and make sure the language fits. You don’t necessarily have to acknowledge the crisis in every post, but please ensure you have removed any jokes or humor that could be taken in the wrong way.
Remember: Don’t scrap everything at once. As stated earlier, part of being in a crisis is the fact that information is going to be changing as you go, so working two weeks at a time is a good way to stay on top of things without massively altering your strategy all at once.
Remember to Engage
Social media is a tool to have a dialogue with your followers, not simply a platform to preach information. Maintaining engagement reminds followers that amidst a crisis, there are real people on the other end, ready to answer questions and address concerns.
However, this doesn’t mean you should wait until posed with a question to give an update. If, for example, it hasn’t been decided if an event or launch will be postponed or canceled, it’s okay to be transparent with your audiences and let them know exactly that. Comforting audiences with an update, even if it’s a ‘We have not yet decided’ is so much stronger than silence—there are few things that look worse in a comment section than hundreds of questions being ignored.
Identify Niche Market to Better Support Your Customers
During a crisis, it’s important to remember what it is that your company does best. Whether that is selling discount airline tickets, performing ballet recitals or making street-style tacos, every brand has something that makes it unique. Use this identifier to better target your response and help your followers in a way that sets you apart from other companies.
Note: This does not say to use a crisis as an opportunity to sell. Using a pandemic, or crisis of any sort, to capitalize on is shameful and could end up damaging your brand far worse than the crisis was ever going to.
It’s okay, though, to continue marketing yourself. Figuring out what you offer, specifically to your community, will make navigating your response so much easier. This could mean anything from discounted prices to extended customer service operating hours and donating supplies to those in need.
Remember to Implement a Positive Brand Voice
It is so important that during a crisis, when there are so many different moving parts, to remember your brand identity and voice. During a tricky time, whether that be a global pandemic or a crisis from within your own company, it can be easy to throw the identity of your brand out of the window and do damage control from behind a corporate mask.
This isn’t to say that the tone of your posts needs to be outwardly peppy—as described earlier, acknowledging the crisis is one of the most vital steps in managing it. However, there is a difference between giving customers humor and wit, which will undeniably come off as naïve and inappropriate, and informed positivity.
Crisis can be scary for everyone, and it isn’t something anyone wants to plan for—but by being prepared, if the time comes, you’re ready for the storm.