Maximize Social Media During A Crisis

Article 4 min
Explore how social media strategies should adjust based on the type of crisis.

When a crisis occurs, it is critical to know who your audience is and what platforms they are on to get timely and accurate information out to them as it comes in. Have a plan in place to know what crises you will respond to on social media and what platform(s) you will use.

Twitter and Facebook are the most reliable platforms to use in a crisis. It is important to know where your audience is, understand both platforms, how their algorithms work and how the information is disseminated on and beyond the platforms. Facebook provides a space for longer updates and gives time to prepare. However, because of the algorithm, it does not ensure all users will see the post in a timely manner. Twitter has a smaller fan base but is primarily used for breaking news and does not limit how many posts a user might see in one day. Twitter is also incorporated into the Google search engine, so information is more readily accessible to the public and news agencies.

Find out as much information as you can about your crisis and the public response by using all platforms for social listening. Monitoring and listening will tell you what your audience is saying elsewhere about your organization, the information you're giving, the information being given elsewhere and what other questions or concerns the audience still has.

Time is a critical variable in defining a crisis. Crises can be sustained, emerging or immediate. A crisis need not meet all of the identified criteria to meet the definition. Explore these types of crisis', their identifying criteria and how to maximize each platform during the crisis.

Crisis Conditions

Use labels along the top to progress through scenarios. Click the learn more button for more in-depth information.

If the Crisis...
  • persists for months or years
  • doesn't have effective management control or correction of the situation
  • has rumors or speculation that is reported and spread
  • has denial and counter claims don't cease or curb rumors
Then it is
Sustained

When the Crisis is
Sustained

  • Persistent
  • Rumors Spread
  • Lingers

You may consider social media to overcome the spreading of misinformation and rumors but don't let this take over your entire strategy. This can be very difficult. There can be instances where no amount of denial or countering seems to curb or purge the news database. Social media monitoring and actions should be synchronized. The crisis strategy should also be flexible to ensure adaptation if/when curveballs are thrown. For example, in the case of an oil spill, those who are not immediately affected may not stay engaged, but might jump back in if, say, gas prices are impacted.

Because these crises will stretch over a long period of time, incorporate the sustained crisis into your current strategy without letting it take over your overarching narrative. Don't lose your brand because of a sustained crisis. Tell people what they need to know in the same voice and tone that they've come to expect through your site.

Use Twitter for Newsworthy Information

  • Directly engage with media
  • Respond to questions in real time
  • Provide multiple updates as needed
  • Listen to conversations about the crisis
  • Consider using a hashtag to aggregate the conversation

Use Facebook to Maintain the Narrative

  • Keep the public informed
  • Address rumors
  • Direct your audience to where more information is available
  • Continue the conversation, if necessary

Crisis Example(s)

  • Deepwater Horizon Oil Spills (2010) - Coast Guard uses social media to share their efforts and response to the situation
Sustained
If the Crisis...
  • can be anticipated
  • can be minimized in early stages
  • develops from an issue
Then it is
Emerging

When the Crisis is
Emerging

  • Anticipate
  • Minimize
  • Develop

You may consider social media to address, acknowledge and inform the audience on the situation. Provide updates throughout the crisis to curb fear, speculation and the spread of inaccurate information. Because this situation is on-going, this shouldn't replace your overall strategy. Use the trust that has been built over time to influence your audience's feelings and actions. Be prepared by establishing a repository of images/graphics/videos to ensure the post performs well against the algorithm.

Use Twitter for Newsworthy Information

  • Provide immediate, regular updates based on your crisis communication plan
  • Answer media questions
  • Give clear and concise information
  • Listen to conversations about the crisis
  • Consider using a hashtag to aggregate the conversation

Use Facebook to Maintain the Narrative

  • Respond to common questions and concerns
  • Give clear information that addresses fear, concerns, misinformation
  • If you have a strong Facebook Live plan in place, consider going live to provide updates
  • Provide another location where updates are available, such as your organization’s website

Crisis Example(s)

  • Hurricane Dorian (2019) - National Guard uses Twitter to prepare the affected area and give updates on their efforts
Emerging
If the Crisis...
  • has little to no time for planning
  • is a major emergency
  • has chaotic information and activity
Then it is
Immediate

When the Crisis is
Immediate

  • Unplanned
  • Major Emergency
  • Chaotic

Use social media to obtain information about the situation and what information is being shared by monitoring and listening. You may consider posting on social media to acknowledge the situation if it meets predetermined criteria of your social strategy. After you’ve determined to post on social media, establish control of the narrative internally, execute your crisis communication plan and always remember who’s listening.

Use Twitter for Newsworthy Information

  • Provide immediate updates
  • Provide clear instructions
  • Address confusion and conflict
  • Listen to conversations about the crisis
  • Consider using a hashtag to aggregate the conversation

Use Facebook to Continue the Story

  • Inform the public on the situation
  • Respond in the comments as updates become available
  • Debrief after the situation
  • Provide another location where updates are available, such as your organization’s website

Crisis Example(s)

  • 156th Airwing Crash (2018) - Used social media to share information crash using #rican68 to connect events and memorials
Immediate