Social media has its own special features that need to be taken into account when communicating – especially in crisis situations. Aspects such as empathy, speed or authenticity are particularly important. At PREVENCY®, we have summarized these and many other aspects into two success factors for Social Media Crisis Communication: what we call the Social Media Care Factor and the Social Media Speed Factor. Anyone who is familiar with both and takes them into account in an emergency knows the basis for managing social media crises professionally and mastering them in the best possible way. In this article you will learn everything about our Social Media Care and Speed Factors.
Sharing is caring! We all know this phrase. But in the context of social media crisis communication, it takes on a whole new meaning. On the one hand, because social media users have an increased need for information in crisis situations. On the other hand, because users’ emotional needs are also heightened during a crisis. Both needs should be addressed and served for successful crisis communication. In short, you should take care of your online community during a crisis.
Regular updates address users’ high demand for information during a crisis. These should be shared at frequent intervals – possibly even when there is no new information at all. For example, you can let your community know that you are working on getting new information. This signals that you care about the case and take your stakeholders’ need for information seriously.
Take also into consideration: Social media is a medium for dialog. Digital communication has long ago ceased to be one-sided. Your stakeholders can get in touch with your company quickly and easily via social media – and often expect the same from you. A quick dialogue-like response to users’ posts and messages. So that you don’t have to respond to every single post – which is also hardly feasible in the acute crisis – you can simply simulate such a dialogue with your regular updates. Post the updates centrally on the page and ask for understanding that you cannot respond to every single post. Then pick up on recurring questions, concerns or comments from users and enter into the centralized dialog.
In these updates, you should urgently consider the emotional needs of users and adapt your statements and postings to specific channels. Simply copying sections from a press release is therefore usually not useful. Press releases are often more formal and rational. The primary goal is to share relevant information with the press. On social media, things are different: Here, it’s about taking users’ feelings seriously. They don’t usually talk to journalists, who view the crisis from a more analytical perspective.
Social media users are customers, partners or employees who may themselves be directly affected by the crisis. Therefore, change your role and put yourself in the place of your online community. How might the users feel? What kind of statements and information might you need now? Of course, the specific approach as well as the way of addressing and formulating are always case-dependent. In general, however, authenticity, empathy and transparency ensure trust and credibility. Two important goods to prevent lasting damage to reputation in a crisis.
In a crisis, speed is of the essence. Stakeholders want to be provided with up-to-date information and receive answers to open questions. Social media has made this situation even more acute. Due to the low-threshold contact possibilities via social media, a high viral potential for crisis topics and a prevailing always-on mentality, users generally expect an immediate response to their postings or messages. This is also confirmed by recent studies: Around 70 percent of customers expect companies to communicate with them in real time in crisis situations .
Anyone who does not react quickly enough in a social media crisis runs the risk of losing control over the interpretation of the crisis. This is because gaps in information are quickly filled with rumors, fake news, or a personal interpretation – and these spread very quickly in the social media. It is usually very difficult to catch, deny or correct them again at a later date. Therefore, quick action is essential in social media crisis communication.
In order to be able to react quickly and confidently via social media in a crisis, your crisis management and social media team must be prepared accordingly. To this end, you should define structures, processes and responsibilities for emergencies and record them in the Social Media Crisis Guideline. There you can also store communicative elements for various potential crisis scenarios. These include, for example, pre-formulated social media postings, prescribed terminology or information on how to deal with comments with different escalation levels.
It is also worth subjecting your social media crisis management to a stress test – for example, with a Social Media Crisis Simulation. This allows your employees to practice potential social media crises under real conditions and in real time, but in a secure environment. This gives your team a certain routine in social media crisis management. It also reveals existing weaknesses that can be rectified in the aftermath. If a social media crisis really does occur, your employees can then draw on specific know-how, tangible skills and valuable experience.
In the event of an acute social media crisis, new messages and posts will quickly appear on your social media channels every minute. Responding to all these posts in a short time is – if at all – only possible with a lot of effort and resources. However, especially the latter are valuable in a crisis and should be used strategically – especially if your skilled staff as well as financial resources are not inexhaustible. At the same time, you often have to deal with recurring questions or comments during a crisis. While these can be mapped and answered through a Q&A section on your website, it still may not satisfy your social media community.
This is where technical aide such as chatbots can provide relief. Chatbots can be easily integrated on your messenger channels and automatically answer users’ questions – more personally than a Q&A section and faster than human colleagues. The consequence: Your team is relieved and has more time for other relevant tasks.
The Social Media Care Factor and the Social Media Speed Factor are ultimately two of the most important aspects in social media crisis communication. If both are heeded, social media crises can be mitigated and the angry online community calmed. If, on the other hand, they are ignored, this can quickly lead to frustration, outrage and ultimately a further escalation of the crisis situation. We therefore recommend that you deal intensively with both PREVENCY® Social Media Factors as early as the crisis prevention stage and prepare appropriate implementation in the event of an emergency.
You want to practise dealing with social media crises under real-life conditions? Then our Social Media Crisis Simulation might be for you!
 Salesforce 2019.