How Twitter and Facebook can save my business

The last ten years social media has had a huge impact on the way we communicate these days. Also in crisis communication, social media are playing a greater role than ever. This creates a lot of opportunities but also leads to dangerous pitfalls. We from RESCO help you with what you should do.

1.       Be there and be ready

When disaster strikes it has become a natural response of people to use social media to communicate. So if you are present on a social network site people will always find you. Be prepared for this, make sure you are ready to respond to them because when your organization handles the social media crowd in a wrong way, it can create a social media firestorm.

2.       Use a multichannel approach

Communicating through social media is an easy way to reach many people but don’t forget that still half of the Belgian population hasn’t a Facebook account and only one out of 20 Belgians is on Twitter. Social networks are just one of the many channels you can use to communicate, it is certainly not the only one.

3.       Update regularly

Be aware that the art of waiting is not practiced by social media users. They want immediate updates on what is happening so make sure you update regularly without overdoing it (cf. #9). Luckily this is relatively easy on social media and every message is automatically spread immediately because of a networking effect.

4.       Use its benefits

After an incident has occurred, people with specific skills are often required. Don’t hesitate to ask for them through social media. In the best case scenario they will even come to you on social media.  Also, next to experts look at what other members of the local affected communities have to say. They can create a clearer view on what has happened to them. This is interesting when the organization doesn’t operate at the place of the incident but is somehow affected or responsible for the incident.

5.       Think of the general rules on crisis communication

You don’t need to write a different crisis communication plan for social media. The general rules of crisis communication also apply on social media. The most important ones are to keep the crowd up to date and to be honest.

6.       Use it internally

Social media is an easy way to keep everyone in the organization up to date. This can be done without notifying third parties by creating private groups on social media. Again, this shouldn’t be the only channel for communication and messages that are strictly confidential should never be shared on social media, even in a private group.

7.       Appoint one person to lead communication   

Make sure not everyone in the company starts tweeting and posting whatever they want on social media. Appoint one person who updates tweets and statuses and who makes clear what can and cannot be posted. In that way the rest of the team responsible for social media communication knows how to react on the inflow of reactions.

8.       Use hashtags

Sometimes it is in the details. For example, if you use Twitter, use hashtags so people can categorize tweets.

9.       Limit communications

We said you needed to keep the crowd informed and up-to-date but don’t tweet and post too much. At all cost, avoid starting discussions on social media. If necessary, ask the person(s) involved to continue the discussion offline.

10.   Do not delete

After an incident that is your responsibility you might receive some post and tweets that damage the reputation of your organization. It might be tempting to simply delete those but DON’T! On the internet everything can be seen, so also the things that all of the sudden disappear. When people start noticing you delete their comments you will only make things worse.

It is clear that social media offer an entire new way to communicate in a crisis. Although the general rules of crisis communication also apply on this new channel, an organization should profoundly think about how they will approach social media. If handled well, social media can be your best friend in crisis communication. If not, it can be your worst enemy.

Bibliography

Dance , S. (n.d.). Social Media and Mobile Convergence: New Paradigms for Incident Communications.

Masjedi, Y. (2013, November 14). 5 Reactions to Avoid During Social Media Crisis Communications. Retrieved November 19, 2013, from http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/11/social-media-crisis-communications-avoid.html

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