How To Leverage Social Media During A Crisis

Members of our Influencer Engagement team recently attended St. Louis Social Media Club’s Dinner & Discussion: “Controlling Chaos in a Crisis Situation.” Throughout this open discussion, our team was able to share our expertise on engaging influencers during an evolving crisis as well as learn from other industry professionals.

Our Influencer Engagement team developed the following key learnings from the Social Media Club discussion, which can help brands leverage the true power of social media before, during and after a crisis:

Prepare a Plan

When your team is in crisis mode, you won’t have extra time to consider when and how you will respond. Have a plan in place in order to proactively identify risk factors and influencers/audiences. Within your plan, designate the key players such as spokespeople, communications staff and leadership as well as potential backup players to speak for or on behalf of the brand. Streamline your communications and approval process in advance by developing a flow chart for reference. For real-time notifications of news, refer people who are looking for more information back to your social media pages to advance your social pages’ newsworthiness and brand credibility. Expect your overall plan to grow and evolve with regular updates, including lessons learned to improve any strategies and tactics.

Identify Influencers

Be prepared and stay on top of the research around your key audiences and media. Remember that anyone who speaks about the brand can be categorized as a “risk” to your organization. Risk influencers should be thoughtfully engaged with informed and tailored responses to make them aware of any updates or changes. In addition, positive influencers, or brand ambassadors, can ultimately come to your aid during a crisis, by sharing their personal stories of success to defend your brand. While it is important to be responsive to both positive and negative influencers, develop an approved protocol for how to end discussions with internet trolls who are not interested in learning more about your organization or its message.

Gauge the Influence

Influence can be measured based on three key areas: relevance (how relevant the material is to the brand), resonance (the quality of the material) and reach (an influencer’s number of followers and their ability to create engagement and shareability of the material). Understanding the reach, relevance and resonance of an issue can help you identify the appropriate level of time and resources to managing a situation. In order to gauge the situation, listen to your audience and their sentiment on the issue every step of the way. Find the proper source to define the best approach – for example, ask yourself: is the problem growing on social media, or did it begin on social media? Once you’ve evaluated the potential influence of the situation, utilize your resources to respond with the appropriate tone, platform and context of the initial concern.

Utilize Your Allies

During volatile moments, your allies and resources can be a great source of support and direction. Use social listening tools and analytics to not only find the root of a crisis but also to proactively identify where problems could emerge in order to get out in front of any issues. For brands with significant reputation problems, employ social forensics. Social forensics is the act of social monitoring and listening used to find ground zero of a crisis on social. The data behind social forensics can be a key part of a brand’s cyber security plan. It may also be useful in preventing a future brand attack if you can identify repeatable patterns, influencers, behaviors and timeline that the content could go viral. After preparing your course of action to include potential allies and resources, get the buy-in and approval from upper management, as well as support from key organizational leaders. It’s important that your team is aligned with your plan and approach throughout the process.

Social media can be used to share your message and engage in a direct dialogue with your consumers to provide clarity among chaos. By leveraging tips like these, you can include social media communication and analytics as a key player in your crisis management strategy.

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