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Natural disasters, celebrity deaths, COVID-19 –– a lot has happened in 2020 alone. Social media can help in these times of stress and crisis to create a community that supports people by keeping them updated, but it can also create panic or hurt a brand’s reputation.
Morning Consult did a study on how people are interpreting ads and found that brands that featured social interactions in ads –– like hand-holding, kissing, or being on public transportation, seem to have a negative effect, even going so far as users being less inclined to make a purchase from that company. Instead, people want to see content that is relatable at the current time. When people receive accurate, timely, first-hand information, and can communicate about it in real-time, they feel more secure and connected.
From ad campaigns, response posts, and daily content, here’s what you should -–– and really, really shouldn’t –– do with your social media strategy when a crisis occurs.
What to Do
There’s no schedule for things like natural disasters, school shootings, and global pandemics so you can’t prepare for specifics, but you can come up with a general plan –– a guide to reference when a crisis occurs.
A Guide to Creating Your Social Media Crisis Management
- Decide who will internally communicate what’s happening. Above all, you want to make sure your employees and partners are taken care of and communicated with.
- Know who will take responsibility for each item. Maybe it’s the account manager, or the responsibility lies on each person responsible for that content piece. Either way, you need to have everyone on the same page. Decide who will be in charge of customer service and support.
- Create an approval process for organic content. Going along with the previous step, no matter who is responsible for the content being posted, you should have a general outline so all messaging comes out the same. A great thing to do here is to create pre-approved messages that can be slightly tweaked to match each circumstance.
- Check scheduled posts –– when in doubt, delete or hold off on posting.
- Turn off ads. Better safe than sorry. Things that were clever a day ago might come off as tone-deaf and insensitive during a crisis.
- Social listening –– see how others are reacting to the news. This includes competitors and consumers.
Once your plan is in place, you’ll want to be sure you’re keeping up with the news. While the CDC initially gave tips on traveling at the beginning of March, as COVID-19 continued to spread, the CDC made updates on their reports urging consumers to avoid flying if possible. After this update, airlines like Southwest Airlines have come under attack by continuing to promote flying while the world is undergoing social distancing and quarantining protocols. In just two weeks this ad’s messaging went from clever to distasteful.
Posting Appropriate Content
“Acceptable” content during a time of crisis should fall into one of these categories: accurate and reliable information, customer service or support, pleasant distraction, or community and positivity. You may have to adapt your brand voice –– if you’re usually laid-back, sarcastic, or tongue-in-cheek, that might come off as insensitive at the current time. It’s best to have an uplifting, empathetic, or caring tone.
In just the last five years, Facebook realized its role in crisis updates by creating its “Safety Check” feature where people in disaster locations can mark themselves as “safe” to their followers. But this is only one creative example of how social media can be used when in crisis management mode.
Nike’s latest campaign Play Inside –– for the World, highlights the community and positivity aspect of content. Nike is about working out & moving. They adapt their messaging to be inside content. Their app services are offering premium accounts for free, hosing live workouts, and using their influencers and partners to advocate for social distancing. Nike also is adapting their brand to help the current situation by using their resources to create their version of the full-face shield that transforms elements of the brand’s footwear and apparel into much-needed PPE.
What Not to Do
A general rule when posting content during a crisis is to not say things just to say them. A crisis isn’t an opportunity to capitalize on –– you shouldn’t be trying to “spin” the situation for gains –– people will notice and get angry. You don’t want to mold or force your products to be relevant during this time.
Following Prince’s death in 2016, CNET reported on Maker’s Mark who came under fire for advertising their signature red bottle being turned purple in honor. The problem? Prince was adamant about not drinking alcohol. In this case, the brand was reaching too far to capitalize on the situation.
Along with imagery, stay away from using a trending hashtag or keywords in your ads to get exposure. If people are searching for updates on the crisis, it will give you negative publicity if you’re running a paid ad on that topic. Leave the queue clear for news and updates relating to the crisis. In fact, Twitter is even prohibiting the targeting of keywords related to COVID-19.
The bottom line? Create content that is relatable and comforting to your consumers. Trying to capitalize on a crisis or continuing “business as usual” can have a negative effect on consumers, and can often have lasting impacts even after the crisis has been averted.
While you can’t predict a crisis, you can predict how you’ll react in one –– at least from a business standpoint! By having a plan in place, you can eliminate some of the stress a crisis brings on so that you can focus on how to support your customers.