As I’m sure you’ve heard, Google and Twitter have reached a deal that will allow Google to once again index tweets in real-time. This means that relevant and timely tweets may appear in your Google search results. This deal is mutually beneficial, as it provides Google with a way to remain even more relevant in real-time news-worthy searches, and it provides Twitter with exposure to those Googling real-time events, rather than simply exposing themselves to those who use Twitter search.
But what does this mean for your crisis management?
I’ve always advised my clients and blog readers that it’s important to make sure your online presence is as secure as possible prior to experiencing a crisis. It’s one thing to have high rankings when all is good and it’s business as usual. It’s another thing to keep those rankings in the midst of a crisis, when what feels like the whole world is talking/publishing about you in a negative tone.
Side Note: The best way to do this is to conduct an online vulnerability audit before a crisis and to work on strengthening the core foundation of your online presence as a crisis preparedness strategy. This allows you to focus on crisis communications and crisis management in a crisis, while knowing that you did everything you could to give your organization a strong online foundation.
Why is this important? Because if you’re faced with a news-worthy crisis, it’s certain that it will be published about online, on news sites as well as on blogs. Since Google indexes news in real-time, this can weigh heavily on your brand’s rankings both in and post-crisis.
Now Twitter is added to the mix and the impact. This new deal with Google means that, not only will news articles and blog posts be indexed in real-time, helping to shape the narrative of your crisis, but so will tweets – and we all know how dominating and overwhelming the social-sphere, especially Twitter, can be in a crisis.
This means that, when stakeholders Google your organization or keywords regarding the crisis, they will find articles, blog posts and relevant tweets possibly above your own crisis communications in their search results. I say “possibly above” because often Google’s “in the news” section is the first set of results found for a news-worthy topic in the search engine results pages (SERP). For example, here’s a search I did for “Brian Williams” which is currently an extremely news-worthy topic. You’ll notice that “in the news” is even above his Wikipedia page at the time of this search. You’ll also notice that there are no tweets indexed… yet.
If you’re anything like me, you’re now wondering…
What types of tweets are most likely to be indexed by Google?
Considering that an average of 500 million tweets are tweeted each and every day (yeah, that number shocked me too), and that in a crisis the digital noise can be deafening, Google can’t possibly index all tweets as that would totally defeat the purpose. So, the questions become:
- Which tweets are most likely to be indexed?
- How can you have a piece of that pie to strengthen your chances of having your own Twitter crisis communications indexed in Google (which is a powerful way to become the narrative of your own crisis)?
Google is very secretive about their algorithms, so these are tough questions to answer. However, in these early stages of this deal, Stone Temple Consulting conducted a study to try to answer these questions. The full study can be found here (and is worth the read), but here are the highlights that matter to your crisis communications:
The study revealed that authoritative profiles (not just number of followers, but number of tweets, retweets, links, engagement, etc.) have an impact on indexed tweets. But this is by far not the only factor. Within their study, Stone Temple Consulting found that inbound links, images and hashtags pull the most weight.
Tips for getting your tweets indexed by Google in a crisis
With these factors in mind, here are some strategies to focus on pre-crisis, in order to maximize your crisis communication success and minimizing the risk of having others become the narrative of your crisis:
1) Be sure to have a Twitter crisis communications strategy outlined within your crisis plan.
This Twitter crisis communications strategy should include:
- Knowing how to monitor the Twitter-sphere to effectively filter through the noise.
- Making your key message points Twitter-friendly.
- Building relationships with journalists, reporters and bloggers on the platform.
- Having a crisis hashtag strategy.
- And much more.
Recommended read: My ebook, Guide to Leveraging and Managing Twitter in a Crisis,
explains how to successfully do all this and more. Click here to learn more.
2) Build up your Twitter presence to be authoritative, engaging and trustworthy – prior to experiencing a crisis.
Though this isn’t a guarantee to have your tweets indexed, it will help in all aspects of your crisis communications. Twitter is the leading social media channel in a crisis. It’s home to bloggers, journalists, reporters, citizen journalists and your stakeholders. The more engagement you get on Twitter on a regular basis, the more ears and credibility you’ll have in a crisis. This is worth putting attention to now, in order to maximize the benefits that Twitter offers in a crisis.
As Stone Temple Consulting put it:
“What we learned is that Google appears to value the same things that drive Twitter engagement. This should be no surprise to us, because Google wants to value the same things that people do. So the big lesson may be a simple one: focus on driving higher engagement on Twitter, and Google is more likely to reward you with higher indexations rates for your tweets.”
3) Make real-time and transparent crisis communications your focus
Don’t worry about having your tweets indexed on Google, but rather focus on empowering your team to communicate in real-time and transparently in a crisis. This is critical if you’re going to position your organization as the voice of credibility and leadership, which always needs to be your first priority. The good news is that doing this provides you with a win-win. You’ll come out of the crisis as a crisis communications pro and, by consistently feeding your stakeholders (which include the media) with relevant and timely updates, you will position your organization as the narrative of the crisis, allowing others to take your messaging and tweet / share / publish it. Those “others” may just be the ones who get their tweets ranked in the search engines – if you’ve done number 1 and 2 above effectively.
Through all the changes, effective communication should always remain your constant
There will always be changes when it comes to the digital landscape. These changes will provide new risk and new opportunity. However, the good news is that communication is communication. If you always focus on real-time, transparent and compassionate communications in a crisis then you will always reap the benefits of the opportunities. Building and strengthening the relationships you share with stakeholders, and putting people and environment first before profit and ego, is always the secret to successful crisis management. (Tweet this!)
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.