Social Media Management in Times of Crisis
As COVID-19 prevention measures continue to rock our nation, digital platforms are also experiencing a massive influx of communication. In times of crisis, social media managers have to pivot from being brand advocates, content creators, and light customer service reps, to being the first line of contact for scared and uncertain consumers.
Business owners have a unique ethical responsibility: to avoid spreading misinformation while keeping their audience aware of new safety measures and quickly changing situations. Below are five best practices for using social media to do so.
1. Pause regular social messaging that undermines the current situation or conflicts with your updated policies.
Go through all your businesses’ preplanned content to audit what could be taken out of context, considered tasteless and inconsiderate, or is objectively incorrect given the present circumstance.
A scheduled post that includes a CTA to book appointments or in-person visits should be paused and modified to inform customers they can carry out, or have a contactless or virtual appointment. A post asking users if they’re excited to gather together this weekend at a rooftop bar should be saved for later or re-written to consider safety precautions.
2. Keep the tone of your social posts informative and considerate.
Only use vocabulary employed by trusted agencies like the CDC. In times of uncertainty, skip the comedy from brand accounts. Attempting to use humor as a source of levity can easily be misconstrued to worried audiences, especially online.
It’s important to also avoid buzzwords that have taken a life of their own, and to stick with the vocabulary and wording provided by organizations like the CDC and WHO. Slight tweaks in language, syntax, and even punctuation create variations of a message that can continue to morph as more people copy, paste, tweak, and post. It’s like the ‘telephone’ game you played as a kid: the further you get from the actual source, the more diluted or inaccurate the message.
3. Refrain from sharing information from sources outside of trusted agencies like the CDC.
Even if the messaging is well intentioned, posts from users outside of a trusted professional network could inadvertently be contributing to mass hysteria. If you are going to share posts about what people can do to prevent the spread of a virus like COVID-19, share a post by a healthcare agency or hospital over someone that is a self-proclaimed health and wellness expert.
One of the biggest problems caused by social media is the ambiguity it creates between carefully researched and worded posts, and those typed up on a whim by users who are not experts. In social feeds, posts by individuals appear in the same format and alongside those posted by trusted professionals. The post that took seven experts, hours of research, and three layers of bureaucratic approval are shown and consumed the same way as a post by a YouTuber or Instagrammer. This is a major contributor to confusion.
Trust the experts. Share their message. Don’t echo others lacking authority who are speaking as if they have undisputed facts.
4. Share your policies in a straightforward, easily understood format.
Now is the time to consolidate your messaging. Cut out stylistic nuance. Alert your customers that your policies are changing to abide by the latest state recommendations, and provide a single point where they can find the latest updates. Ideally, this would be your website.
If your business is operating with a lean staff, having one hub for information can help your team avoid missteps when relaying the latest information, and it prevents misinformation from spreading. Rather than crafting a new post for every measure taken or new development, craft a universal message to post on social that directs consumers to your website for the most updated information.
A post that says “We are taking the current situation seriously and have updated our COVID-19 policies according to state recommendations. Please see our website for the latest information” will be accurate no matter when the social feed shows it to your user. A post saying “We will be open until 10pm,” followed by an update that says, “We will be closed until further notice,” can cause confusion if shown in a newsfeed out of order.
5. Increase your monitoring of direct messaging, phone lines, web forms, and regular lines where customers typically communicate with you.
The consumer perception of social is changing. Users see businesses’ pages as direct lines of communication, where they can receive quick responses in lieu of a lengthy phone conversation with an outsourced rep.
Pivot your social team to take more of a customer service approach when fielding direct messages and web forms. Supply your team with previously written answers to respond to the most commonly asked questions, and allow them to provide phone numbers to customer service reps who can speak directly with concerned customers.
A quick and thorough response plan implemented via your social channels is a great way to keep customers’ trust invested in your business. It’s a way to serve your consumer base with the care they expect even if you can’t interact with them face to face.
As a Digital Marketing and branding focused agency, we understand the importance of communicating clearly online, whether that’s through your website, your social media, or your email marketing. As a local company, we understand the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on local economies and businesses. Throughout this time, we will continue to work with our clients to craft and implement crisis communication strategies.