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Social media and crisis management

Wordle: Social media in a crisis

Social media is not just a fad that businesses can have fun dabbling with, although it may seem that way at times. It has indeed created a channel of communication that allows businesses and corporations to show their less serious side, in fact, it demands it. However, we should be wary of underestimating its power.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets are associated with fun interactions, whereas email, press releases and website copy require a formal tone of voice, at least’s that the theory. However, this view of social media could be extremely damaging when it comes to crisis management.

Remember that even if you’re not on Facebook or Twitter this doesn’t mean that you don’t have a presence there. It actually means that if Facebook and Twitter users are talking about you you’ll find it harder to address their concerns.

Create a solid communication plan

Retaining customers during your recovery period is absolutely vital. You need to keep their confidence in you. So first and foremost make sure that your crisis management strategy includes a communication plan.

Next, make sure that you reach all your audiences. This involves developing a plan that utilises several channels of communication that include both your website and your social media accounts.

In the period after a disaster you’re likely to issue a formal statement. This shows that you’re still in control and reassures your customers and share holders that you are addressing the problem. Social media can help you react to a crisis more quickly than any other form of media. Asos, for example, used Facebook and Twitter to announce the recent fire at their warehouse.

The fire at Asos was set to become front page news so for them it was important to get ahead of the press or at least to join them. Although your own crisis may not be the subject of media scrutiny it’s still important to maintain dialogue with your customers.

Avoid customer alienation

So why could it be damaging only to use social media during the good times?  The answer is that to leave social media by the wayside during a crisis is to lose touch with your customers and to leave your reputation open to harm.

If you don’t take social media seriously it also means you don’t take your social audience seriously. Short posts through social channels are recognised as effective ways of engaging audiences in an informal way. This doesn’t mean it’s only for entertainment though: it is equally useful for maintaining dialogue with your customers during a crisis.

Communicating with your social audience ensures two things:

  1. All audiences receive the same information and aren’t ignored
  2. You maintain your most engaging and personable voice
  3. You can be involved in conversations your customers are having about you and can respond to comments your customers make about you.

Stick to the same tone you usually use on your social channels. Suddenly changing to a formal tone of voice will give the impression of someone else behind the keyboard rather than the friendly poster your followers have come to know. Disappearing behind a cold corporate press release will quickly alienate your audience.

It should go without saying though that this doesn’t mean a jokey tweet is appropriate. Instead you need to find the right balance. Address the facts and reassure your customers with a friendly tone that readers can still relate to. In-feed posts and direct messages to specific users and followers will help to make affected customers feel informed and valued.

Ultimately customer loyalty will go a long way to aiding your recovery from any crisis.