Social Media Best Practices During a Crisis

Article 3 min
Explore how to be the most efficient when using social media in a crisis.

Using social media to communicate with stakeholders during a crisis has proven to be an especially effective use of the medium due to its speed, reach and direct access. Social media has facilitated the distribution of information to key audiences and news media while providing a means for dialogue among the affected and interested publics.

In crisis situations, information is at a premium. Depending on the event, there may be a distributed population, interrupted communication ability and a rumor mill running rampant. The audience will quickly grow from those impacted first-hand by the crisis, to family members, to the general public keeping their eyes on the crisis to see how it unfolds.

Follow these best practices, to be efficient and responsive in maintaining information during a crisis. 

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USING SOCIAL MEDIA IN A CRISIS

LEVERAGE

Leverage already existing social presences to build trust. It is important to have a regularly updated channel of communication open to key audiences before the crisis hits, so they know where to find trusted information online.

Ensure the right platform is in use to engage with the intended audience and get the message seen.

CENTRALIZE

Create a centralized location to funnel information. Do not fragment command into “command emergency services” and “command logistics.” Make the official command page (or a higher echelon page, if appropriate) the nexus for information. If there is no command presence, the people most interested in the crisis may decide to start their own group. Whatever the case, communicate where the people most affected are communicating.

MONITOR

Monitor incoming content posted by users on social sites to understand what information they need and what is happening to them. Have enough staff to answer questions as best as possible and ensure the audience knows the command is listening and is actively involved in the crisis.

UPDATE

Post cleared information when available. There is no need to wait for a formal press release.

Remember: Depending on the platform, multiple updates can affect who sees your message based on the algorithm the platform uses. Consider updating by commenting on the original post.

LOGIN

Use government-approved mobile devices to update social presences quickly.

RESPOND

Answer questions as often as practicable. Avoid just posting information on a social media presence; that is what command websites are for. Instead, be prepared to have people ask questions and respond as quickly as possible through the most appropriate means of communication.

For repeat questions, consider creating a page on the official website for Q&A related to the crisis.

CORRECT

Monitor external conversations regularly and correct inaccuracies. This is the best way to stop rumors before they run rampant. Use search engines and other monitoring tools to track discussion on the topic.

SHARE

Share and cross-promote critical information with your network of trusted social media sites, such as other military command sites, government and official NGO sites, like the American Red Cross.

ENCOURAGE

Encourage on-scene and first responder personnel to communicate via social media by having them either use personal accounts or feed the command information to post on the official command social sites.

Note: According to DoDI 8170.01, DoD personnel are not permitted to use personal, nonofficial accounts to conduct official DoD communications unless in an emergency when official communication capabilities are unavailable, impractical or unreliable or if it is in the best interest of the mission.

PROMOTE

Promote the social media presence on outgoing materials like press releases, email signatures, links on the home page and even in conversations with reporters.

EVALUATE

Analyze success of crisis communication via social media by looking at click-throughs, conversation, replies and reactions to postings, etc.

You can also find these best practices in the Joint Publication (Public Affairs) 3-61 Social Media in Crisis Communication on pages F-8 and F-9.