Social media: How to react to a crisis

Lindsay McComb / Posted 4.22.2013

Social media: How to react to a crisis

To thine own self be true. And to thine own brand. People really hate phonies.

When tragedy rocks a locale, a country or even the world – is your social media manager prepared to act? In light of the recent events in Boston Mass., many a brand acquitted themselves equitably – others, not as much.

Keep in mind that there's no one-size-fits all response to a crisis. But however you decide to react should be in line with your branding and messaging. Besides, does anyone really want Whirlpool, Inc. praying for them? Sometimes silence is golden.

Have a plan.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you see your brand as a reputable source of information for followers? Which kinds of information?
  • Do you frequently engage with users or take a more passive stance?
  • Are your tweets serious, playful, personal, or professional?

Once you understand where your brand fits into the grand scheme of things, then you can proceed. But do so with caution.

Take care not to come across as insensitive or out of touch during a crisis situation.

A crisis breaks out. What do you do?

First of all, as a social media manager, you need to be checking Twitter pretty regularly. You should be following some reputable news sources and should be aware of crises quickly.

  1. Log in, and see how people are reacting, and "take the pulse" of the situation.
  2. Re-evaluate your scheduled posts. Is something you have planned going to come across as rude, inconsequential, or insensitive? Consider deleting the posts or rescheduling for a later time.
  3. Based on your brand identity, decide if it would make more sense to post your condolences or to just remain mum.
  4. If you do choose to address the issue, make sure to do so in a way that makes sense for your brand. Whether that's a "We're thinking about you" tweet or  "We'll be taking a break from tweeting in light of current events" – do something that's in line with your messaging. 
  5. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to piggyback on a #hashtag with self-promotion.
  6. Don't feel as though you need to completely shut down operations. While shameless self-promotion is always shameless, it tends to stand out more when people's attentions are elsewhere. But the world keeps turning and you have to make money. By all means update your followers on new articles and upcoming events – just make sure to do it with care.
  7. Follow up. Is there something meaningful you can add to the conversation in the aftermath? An analysis from your perspective, how your brand is helping the situation, or how your followers can get involved? Again, only do this if it makes sense for your brand.
  8. Follow your gut. Do what feels right. Be honest, forthcoming, and most of all, be human.

Don't feel as though you have to stop everything work-related – just proceed with caution.

In your opinion, what brands handled the recent events in Boston appropriately? And which brands made you cringe?

Lindsay McComb

Writer and Content Specialist

Lindsay is Q Digital Studio’s writer and content specialist. She develops heady technical jargon into clear, coherent (and optimized) content. She has a knack for finding just the right words - but only after she’s had a nice cup of coffee (or two). She happily dives into the depths of the Internet on a daily basis. Lindsay has worked as a writer and editor the world over.