Communication is critically in a crisis. When it comes to using social media to communicate your message it can get a little overwhelming. So many channels, so many expectations, so many opportunities. Where do you begin?
There are three cores to using social media to communicate your brand’s message throughout a crisis:
- Your message
- The channel
- The frequency
Your message, first and foremost is the most important. It needs to stay in-line with your brand’s day-to-day message and core brand values. It needs to be honest, informative and sincere.
It also needs to be communicated on the right channels, the right way – and this can get confusing and tricky. Why? Because each social media channel has a different audience with different expectations, giving you the obligation to meet these expectations while communicating a consistent and strategic message.
This is why building up your following and developing real relationships with your market is so important before a crisis strikes. The more you know and understand about your market and the different relationships you share with your audience on the different channels, the more capable you will be to adapt your message, while keeping it consistent, for each of them.
The different ways your audience expects your message on the different social media channels
Let’s take a look at the different social media channels that you may currently be active on, and the general expectations of each audience within these channels.
YouTube comments tend to be anonymous and very critical, which means, odds are you have built less of a real relationship with those posting to your YouTube channel. This makes it harder to respond, and often doesn’t require the same level of personal touch as Facebook and Twitter does.
You should absolutely monitor the comments and respond when appropriate and necessary, but you won’t necessarily have the capability to be as connected and personal within your replies to these comments.
Facebook Fan Page
The relationship you share with your Facebook fans is real, and the expectations of your fans are extremely high. When fans voice their opinion on your Timeline, they expect a direct and personal reply. They want you to answer their questions and care about their concerns or experiences. They also want to be updated on the crisis as often as possible, and to always know what’s going on.
A Facebook group is more like a forum than a fan page. People discuss, help each other, ask questions, share links, etc. It has a different vibe and a different purpose than a Facebook fan page, and it needs to be treated as such in a crisis. This is more of a formal place to be thorough, while keeping the same tone that you normally take within the group – whatever that may be.
In terms of responding to questions and comments, remember that you’ve built a relationship with these people, and they have certain expectations that come from that relationship. This is an opportunity for you to connect even closer to these individuals by meeting their expectations.
Your followers who @mention you directly expect and wait for a reply. They tend to want the same care as your Facebook fans do: compassion, transparency, honesty and real-time communication.
Those who are not necessarily loyal followers that you’ve built a relationship with, but are still tweeting about the crisis and mentioning your brand, well, they as well would appreciate answers and a direct reply (or at least a reply in the form of a public statement or official response, and to be made aware of it). These tweets and individuals should be seen as an opportunity as well. Odds are, and cases show, that if you respond to these individuals properly, you have very high chances of turning them into happy and loyal brand advocates. Not a bad deal when it’s all said and done!
Why is it important to adapt your message to your different channels?
To say the least:
- Your audience has different expectations of you – expectations that are worth your while to meet to your best ability.
- It helps you focus on continuing to build, or rebuild, the relationship you share with your customers, fans and followers.
- They will be more likely to listen to your side of the story, as well as stay within your channels for more news and updates (always a strategic goal within a crisis).
As for frequency of posting, I talk more about that within this post, but here are some quick guidelines that you’d be better to follow when it comes to communicating your message in a timely and consistent manner:
- Social media happens in real-time and needs to be communicated as such
- Choose an interval of time (i.e. every 20 or 30 minutes) and be consistent with updating your audience in a timely manner.
- Even if there’s nothing new to report, let them know that. This will keep them on your channel, as well as keep the speculation and rumors to a minimum.
The message you communicate within a social media crisis has a direct impact on how your company or organization survives the crisis. The best thing you can do is begin to build your networks before a crisis strikes, and to prepare your company or organization with a solid crisis communications plan.
Do you have anything to add? What experiences and expectations have your networks proven to have in a crisis? Share your comments with me below!
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.