In our increasingly digital world, it’s undeniable that social media has grown as a primary method of sharing information, especially during a time of crisis. Whether it’s citizen journalists sharing pictures taken through their mobile devices or major new sources live tweeting during disastrous moments, social media is a common tool that all people use. The use of social media to share information during such times has been debated heavily. In fact, I’ve personally written an article or two about the topic. The ways in which social media is used during a crisis must be handled in a particular manner, and certain policies should be put in place to make sure that communication is handled professionally and accurately.
As Heather Whaling (founder of Gebben Communication) simply says it in a presentation about crisis communication, “social media is the new phone. You can’t ignore it.” Whaling is right. Social media is constantly buzzing, and the thoughts shared by people must be addressed. In order to handle this effectively during a crisis, Whaling offers some quick tips
- “If you’re not quick, you’re not relevant.” – Social media doesn’t stop. It’s important to be timely with the information you share and respond in real time. Otherwise, you could be deemed insufficient by your community.
- Avoid wasting time in a crisis by creating a clear process in advance – Every company should have a process that they follow during a crisis. By having this type of methodology set prior to a disaster occurring, people can follow protocol in order to effectively handle the situation.
- Monitor thoughts shared online – Having a set of search queries to follow allow you to follow certain topics that people are discussing. By searching keywords or hashtags, responses to different conversations can be followed.
- Respond where the relevant conversations occur – It can be impossible to respond to every single tweet or comment that someone has about a disaster. Make sure to respond when it’s appropriate and when it will have the most lasting effect. It’s important to make efficient use of your time.
One of the most important things that the tips above do not cover is to make sure that you’re sharing the right information. The accessibility of social media and the ease at which it is to use can be as dangerous and it is advantageous. The ability to share facts quickly makes social media a phenomenal tool. However, the ability for false rumors to quickly spread makes it as dangerous as it is advantageous. Before sharing any information online, make sure that is has been confirmed. Sharing rumors won’t allow you to build yourself as a credible source.
While companies and brands will have different policies regarding social media during a crisis, it is important to follow certain guidelines when handling social media accounts. Having a plan ready, allowing yourself to focus in on certain conversations, and making the most of your time are all essential to effectively using social media during a crisis.
Do you have any other advice for how to use social media in a crisis? Share in the comments below!