March 11, 2020

How To Handle Social Media In A Crisis

As you’re highly likely aware, there’s a pandemic going on around the world right now due to COVID-19. It can be a very disconcerting and unnerving time for us all, especially for businesses and how they present themselves online.  That’s why it’s so critical that you have a game plan to handle your social media in a crisis.

Whether it’s this specific crisis or anything in future that affects a lot of people, it’s important to know exactly what you need to do to adequately manage your front-facing brand on Social Media in a crisis and beyond.

If you’d prefer to watch us talk about how to handle social media in a crisis instead of reading, look no further:


Define A Crisis

Not every world event would constitute a “crisis” for every brand, so it’s important for you to concisely define exactly what type of event or situation would require a crisis-level response from your business. This would mostly depend on which industry you’re in and the type of crisis that’s happening.

For example, if you’re a business that brings numerous people together in one physical location, such as a restaurant, a bar, a concert venue, a bus company or even an airport, then the current crisis is something you’re going to need to address. Depending on the type of crisis it is, you may need to wait for official word on what happened or what is happening, and how the authorities in charge are handling it before you make any public statements. Don’t rush into anything but pay close attention to all the official updates.

Pausing Your Posts

Once you’ve determined that a crisis applies to your business, the first thing you’re going to want to do is pause any scheduled posts. This is especially important as it closely pertains to your reputation, which can easily be damaged in times like these. You would never want to come across as thoughtless or opportunistic when something that affects a lot of people is going on, so the safest bet is to pause your scheduled posts and formulate your official strategy internally.

During the 2015 Paris attack, we had a post scheduled for a client with the caption “Paris is always a good idea”. As you can likely anticipate, we immediately paused that post and any further Paris posts until we met with our client to discuss the next steps. If a post like that went out during a terror attack, it could have inflicted potentially irreversible damage on the brand and offended a lot of people, so be vigilant. This is integral to handling social media in a crisis.

Outline What You’re Going To Do

Now that your scheduled posts are paused and you’ve put together a plan with your team, the next step is to publicly outline exactly how your company is going to respond to the crisis. This is truly a key step as it’s likely your first message to both your followers and the general public about how things will go moving forward for your customers and prospective clients.

One great example we’ve seen during the current pandemic came from an airline. We received an email newsletter explaining that all customers who have booked tickets with them can reschedule for no additional charge in the next 12 months, and they also broke down in detail their new cleaning procedures for their fleet of aircraft, what is expected of their customers when flying with them and what they’re doing to control spreading.

Share Frequent Updates + Resources

Typically information comes at a frantic pace during any sort of crisis, and often your customers can feel out of the loop with any plans your business may have with regard to dealing with it. One key way you can allay any fears is to constantly provide updates to your followers, both about what your company is doing or plans to do, and from any authorities with official word on what’s happening.

If there are any government websites with procedures, processes or general information, that could be a great, useful piece of content to share. Since you’ve already outlined what you’re doing via social, it might be a great idea to add all of that information to a brand new page on your website so it’s more readily available for those searching for it.

Don’t Be Tasteless

While it might seem like a good idea to capitalize on a crisis – don’t. You don’t ever want to be that brand who’s seen as being opportunistic by leveraging a crisis or pandemic for their own gain. We live in sensitive times already, and this is a time to be even more vigilant and sensitive to the cultural zeitgeist.

If there’s a hashtag for the crisis, don’t use it unless it’s to communicate your official company line. If there’s a conversation online about it, don’t get involved. Typically we’d always suggest you get in there and engage but this is the one time to step out, even more so if it’s political (for example, “Canada just isn’t doing enough here”). Think before you post and ensure all public responses are thoughtful and vetted by key team members to avoid any unpleasant online surprises.

Having a plan in place to manage social media in a crisis will prevent the onslaught of a full-blown crisis management scenario for your brand, so stay alert!

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