When a crisis hits, whether it’s a wild fire or a global pandemic, it’s hard to know how to react appropriately on social media. Should you continue to market your business? Is it OK to highlight previous events? Should I post updates about the crisis? When can we “go back to normal” with social posts?
These are all great questions. The first thing you should do when a crisis hits is slow down. As a FEMA certified social media manager and a former member of my local communities EOC, I know first hand how important it is to slow down, gather the facts and proceed strategically during and emergency. Here are my top tips (based on training and first-hand experience) for handling your social media channels like a pro.
First things first: Audit your content
The first thing to do when a crisis hits is to audit all of your schedule posts in your channels and remove content that’s irrelevant or insensitive with in the context of the crisis. For example I have a venue client with scheduled posts of nearby ski area. When many North American ski areas closed on March 15 due to the corona virus, we made sure that content was removed immediately. For a catering client, we removed posts showing events with more than 50 people in the image because it was visually in opposition of the CDC social distancing recommendations. Most of the time, you can always repost this content at a later date, so you won’t lose anything. But posting insensitive and irrelevant content , especially at the start of a crisis can anger audiences and tarnish your reputation.
Listen and set up an FAQ for fast and consistent future responses
Another important step is to listen to what people are saying about the crisis on social channels. Facebook groups, are a great way to get a sense of how people are responding and feeling, but also monitoring your own messages for questions can help you get a sense of what people’s biggest questions are so you can create a FAQ document that helps deliver accurate and consistent information.
In Social Media Emergency Management, accuracy and consistency are key.
You FAQ doc should have information about your own policies, including cancellations and rescheduling upcoming events. It should also have information from reputable sources like the CDC. For example, if you’re a venue and you’ve had to close, you may be asked when you will open. The thing is, you don’t really know when you’ll open again, so you don’t want to make promises online. Instead, refer back to CDC guidelines. They have some clear ones for school closures that people are using. Currently 2-4 weeks for a short to medium term closure, 4-8 weeks for a medium to long term closure, and 8-20 weeks for much longer closures. If you have decided to close for two weeks, state that you are adhering to CDC short-term guidelines for closure and will reassess as more information regarding the crisis becomes available. Then invite people to continue to check back on your feeds for the latest updates.
You can do this on your Facebook feed, Instagram Stories, or have an ongoing updates page on your website to keep people informed.
Post content that’s appropriate for the context of the crisis
It is always appropriate and appreciated to offer helpful information. Many people also crave hope and optimism during a crisis, so posting feel-good content is welcome too. However, be very careful to just stick with the facts. The worst thing you can do in a crisis is to be overly and inappropriately optimistic.
It’s also always appropriate to demonstrate how you are caring for your clients. This could be anything from flaunting sanitation efforts if you are a venue or caterer or telling stories how you create space for your clients to mourn the significant changes to their weddings if your a planner.
Keep your stories positive and relevant to you business.
Handling a deluge of DMs
If you’re getting a torrent of DMs and emails, set up autoresponders letting people know you’re overwhelmed with inquires and you’ll get back to them as soon as possible.
Then, use those DMs and emails to flesh out your FAQ. Ideally, you’ll have a lawyer look at your FAQ and make sure you’re not opening yourself to legal trouble. It may take some extra time to have a lawyer look at your FAQ, but once it’s ready to go. It makes answering DMs and emails faster and easier.
Seriously! Have your lawyer bless it. There have been numerous times I’ve proposed a reply and it’s gone through legal and come back fundamentally changed to protect the business. Talking policy on social is no joke, so have a lawyer bless it.
Final Thoughts: Don’t for get to be of service
Staying top-of-mind is important, but the internet just got a whole lot noisier. The best way to position yourself for recovery is to be of service.
- Serve your clients as best as you can and talk about it on social.
- Offer inspiration and hope. Even sharing the viral videos of quarantined people singing from their windows in Italy.
- Be generous with your colleagues, host an online Zoom or Skype meetup with a lawyer to do a Q+A, reach out to your local NACE, WIPA or ILEA chapter and ask how you can help.
- Share great content from influencers, colleagues and industry thought leaders.
- DM colleagues privately and ask how they are doing.
The more you serve now, selfishly, the more easily you’ll recover when this is over.