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How to ensure social media helps, not hurts, during a crisis

The instant nature of social media can be a double-edged sword.

How to ensure social media helps, not hurts, during a crisis
[memyjo/Adobe Stock]
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When a crisis occurs, your actions and reactions can mean the difference between surviving, thriving, or struggling miserably. The way you use social media can be a tipping point for your company that either helps or hinders your cause. How social media affects your brand is up to you.

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Careful planning, a clear strategy, and continued monitoring of social media channels will engage and inform followers instead of alienating them. In a world where “cancel culture” has become the order of the day and online mobs attack without provocation, it is important to keep close control over your social media profile and know what is being said online about your brand.

SOCIAL MEDIA’S ROLE DURING A CRISIS

When disaster strikes, what role does social media play? Used properly, social media can expand the reach of your message through social sharing and provide an open line of communication for interested parties to respond with comments, tips, or questions. And because news spreads with lightning speed on the internet, messages can be disseminated quickly and effectively.

Businesses can use social media to provide updates, status reports, and other company-related information. Social media is especially effective in a crisis because it allows you to communicate directly with a large audience, provides support for people who need information or guidance, and serves as a venue for providing company updates in real time.

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The immediacy of social media also provides an effective platform for addressing customer service needs, providing updates, fact-checking and correcting rumors, and highlighting important developments. Use social media to defend your reputation and get your side of the story out fast.

So, when a crisis occurs, how do you ensure that social media helps your cause instead of making it worse? The instant nature of social media can be a double-edged sword. Information can be disseminated at lightning speed, but if that information is wrong or misleading, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to put the genie back in the bottle.

Here are four social media tactics that will help protect your brand during a crisis instead of causing further harm.

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1. SAY NOTHING IF THE SOURCE IS SUSPECT

Not every social media meltdown requires a response, and sometimes it is better to let a brewing brouhaha blow over. Your company’s response should be directly linked to the nature of the crisis. Responding to something petty or false may legitimize a baseless claim and give it more credibility than it merits. Research issues carefully and always provide factual, thoughtful answers.

2. SHARE WITH CARE

Be intentional with your posts and make sure they are helpful, necessary, and straightforward. Vet each post carefully before it goes live so you can make sure there is nothing offensive, off-color, or controversial that you may have overlooked at first pass. Because news on social media can spread rapidly, it makes sense to always proceed with caution.

3. POST WITH PURPOSE

Do your homework before you post and make sure your content is relevant, purposeful, and accurate. Random social media posts that are not part of a plan may cause more trouble than they are worth if you have not carefully considered your messaging. Focus on your target audience and what information you need to convey during a crisis. Make sure your message is clearly stated so nothing can be left to misinterpretation.

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4. BE HUMAN

Online conversations can go south quickly, so do not post something you may regret or that could reflect poorly on your brand. For example, if your company receives an unfair review, attempt to take the conversation offline while reinforcing the positive attributes of your business. Find out what happened and figure out a way to make it right, if possible. Do your best to provide a thoughtful response, which can help the other person move on.

The immediacy of social media can both help and harm your brand, so always proceed with caution, post carefully and thoughtfully, and resolve inflammatory exchanges offline if possible. Employ these approaches to help avoid an unrecoverable tailspin.


Evan Nierman is Founder and CEO of Red Banyan an international crisis PR and strategic communications agency.