How to be Effective with Social Media During a Crisis

How To 5 min
Crisis situations are bound to occur. Social media is an effective way of reaching people when used properly. A plan should be in place for social media before a crisis to be specific to your command's needs; but should unforeseen circumstances occur, the steps in this plan ensure you are prepared for any situation.

The most important step during a crisis is to remain calm and establish control. To do this:

  • Pause scheduled social media posts
  • Recall the crisis management team
  • Publicly acknowledge what's happening
    • Consider a live social media broadcast or a prerecorded video
    • Post the link to a long-form response on the official website and, if possible, a dark site.

Social media listening will tell you how your users are talking about the situation, and monitoring will show you public response in real-time. Any indication of mission impact through a public platform should be supported with comprehensive data. Remember to have a plan in place to lead the discussion if audience sentiment changes operations.

Compare normal operational time periods against the crisis time period to gauge the severity of the communication environment. Focus on factors like lost followers, specific complaints and the viral reach of negative sentiment surrounding the mission. Identify key performance indicators for successful crisis management and establish a measurement scale to evaluate the negative conversations generated. Determine how to measure impact on overall mission sentiment as well as overall mission impact of the crisis over time.

The third step is to reflect on responses. Even when the crisis begins to dissipate and a semblance of normalcy returns, use this opportunity to evaluate messages and responses. Bring the team back together and do an immediate after action, or hotwash, of what worked and what didn’t. Consider:

  • What were the strongest aspects of the crisis plan?
  • Which elements of the existing strategy were unhelpful or less impactful?
  • Are there any processes or templates that need to be revised?
  • Do any new systems or guidelines need to be created?

Unfortunately, the Internet has a long memory and negative news and complaints can linger far past the end of a crisis. Prepare for the long-term. Evaluate your position moving forward. Figure out how you will communicate and respond. Determine whether or not this situation warrants a passive or active posture. This is where active monitoring can augment a communication strategy. It will allow you and your team to evaluate sentiment overtime and manage negative feedback while examining possible trends. Ask:

  • How will you manage or participate in the long-term conversation about this crisis?
  • Do continual updates need to be provided long-term to any audiences or stakeholders?

Perform a thorough assessment of all the previous steps and weigh them against the team’s performance. This should be an open and candid discussion between team members. Glean the inputs from your team and make any changes to the existing crisis management plan.