How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communication

Rachel McGann | March 23, 2020

People frequently joke about the aspirational nature of online life versus life IRL. The lives we advertise are not the lives we lead. With the recent global health developments caused by COVID-19, though, most of our personal and business communications have been narrowed into an exclusively digital lane.

After canceling spring and summer tours, bands are conducting free living room concerts on Facebook Live. Museums, now closed to promote social distancing, are extending free trials to their digital collections, tours, and online classes. Parents are quite humorously and pointedly sharing how school closures are showing them a new side of their children and themselves.

Social media has become the only place we can be social right now. We’re all on there, which means your customers are, too. When the livestream concert ends and they find themselves hungry, customers will head to Google or Uber Eats or DoorDash to order some delivery, probably after reading a review or two. When they accidentally discover that their eight-year-old will happily read for an hour while snacking on their favorite cereal, your customer will need to order groceries. Accurate, consistent, and thoughtful social media communication makes it easy for your customers to find you, support your business, and maintain the health parameters we all need to follow in this new reality.

We have compiled a number of tips you can use today, both to navigate this crisis and to use during typical business operations.

Why Is Social Media Important?

It allows you to reach people locally, regionally, nationally, and even internationally. If you understand your target audiences’ characteristics, you’ll be able to personalize your messages to resonate more appropriately with that audience. Those consumers can become your customers and brand advocates. Forty percent of digital consumers use social networks to research new brands and products

Social Media Engagement 101

• Post valuable content to generate conversations and interactions. Facebook rewards conversations
• Live videos are almost always a hit: They get six times more interactions than other videos
• Encourage conversations through open-ended questions and replying back to threads
• Stay local: Create events and post relevant local updates to increase community participation in your posts and page

What Social Media Sites Should You Use?

• Facebook: Share updates about local news, events, current products, and offers
Twitter: Tweet about upcoming events and promos using pertinent #hashtags
Instagram: Showcase products and recipes to grow your audience
Pinterest: Promote your brand and show products in use to share new ideas with consumers
YouTube: Video content is hot. Connect with your customers through video
LinkedIn: Connect with businesses and recruit new employees

Pro-tip: Facebook influences 52% of consumers’ purchases

Leverage the Reach of Social Media for Crisis Management

• Make a public social media statement about how you are handling your business while keeping everyone safe
• Keep your audience informed, especially when it comes to business hours and how to pick up and deliver
• Consider what info customers need, ask them to reach out to you directly through DMs and comments
• Put together an FAQ based on frequently asked questions
• If you donate food, post about that and share your experience! Make sure to tag charities and ask others to help if they can

What to Say to Soothe Your Community During a Crisis

“In a time of crisis, we want to commit to maintaining meaningful connections between our business and you. We are taking the necessary measures to ensure our premises and products remain safe. Please comment below or reach out to us through direct message if you need anything and we will get back to you as soon as possible.”

“Through social media, we are able to commit to provide proactive and responsive support for our loyal customers. Although the future may be a bit unclear, we are here to provide you clarity when it comes to our business. We are taking the necessary measures and sensible precautions to protect our business, workers, and community. For any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us through direct message or comment below. Wishing everyone good health and happiness.”

Pro-tip: Be sure to tailor your message to your location, industry or product as needed.

Create Engaging Food and Drink Social Content for the Housebound

• Live Video Streaming / Uploading Videos or regular social posts
• 7-day dinner challenge: Share videos – show how to cook something off a restaurant menu and upload it to Facebook or go to Instagram live and have people cook along with you!
• Show cocktail recipes – use Facebook & Instagram live
• “Kitchen Hacks” – easiest way to peel garlic, how to properly wash a wooden cutting board, just some secrets behind the kitchen that would be helpful for those who are not the best chefs!
• “Bar Hacks” – cutting lemons, mixers to always have on hand, how to muddle, secret ingredients
• How to create a “Kid Menu” for the picky eaters of someone’s household!
• 3 ingredient recipes to make with common things found around the kitchen

Start Conversations… And Keep Them Going

• Invite your friends, family & employees to like your business social media pages
• Include links to your social pages in your email signature, website, & printed materials.
• Encourage those in your offline community to join your brand online: including customers, event leads, partners and even vendors
• Connect with influencers in the industry (brand advocates who are active on social media) as well as potential partners
• Don’t over-sell or be too promotional. It’s good to mix up your posts and include local news, product & business updates as well as socially engaging content.

Step Outside Your Immediate Social Community

• Tag people, use keywords and #hashtags, and interact with any likes, comments, shares or retweets on your social media posts to encourage community growth and sharing
• Like other local business pages; comment and share relevant content from others

What Type of Content Should You Post?

30% Original

• Informative and inspirational content written by you, or provided by corporate
• Post about community events, charitable activities, or recipes

60% Curated

• Third party articles found online via RSS feed, blog, or search
• Local news stories

10% Promotional

• Store or product offers
• Video content receives more engagement than other types of content
• Facebook and Instagram stories connect with audiences

Don’t Forget That Review Sites Are Social, Too!

• Google My Business
• Yelp
• Foursquare
• Yellow Pages

Pro-tip: 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business

Monitor and Respond to Consumer Engagement on Social Media and Review Sites

• Monitor regularly: Customers expect responses within one day
• Respond to all valid reviews and social media mentions
• Positive: Thank them and follow up if necessary
• Negative: Apologize publicly then take detailed response offline
• Spam: Ignore and report
• Share positive reviews and comments across social media
• Ask your customers for reviews and engagement
• Social Media is the #2 channel for consumer complaints. Follow up and take care of issues
• Passionate consumers become your advocates when you resolve their issue

Pro-tip: 50% of people would boycott a brand because of a bad customer service experience on social media!

How Do You Measure Organic Social Media Reporting?

Social Media KPIs to Measure

Community Growth: Consider “active followers”
Facebook engagement: Likes/Reactions, Comments, Shares, Clicks, Recommendations
Twitter engagement: Favorites, Retweets, Replies
Reach and impressions: Look at both page reach and post reach
Reviews and response time: Number and sentiment of reviews/comments
Facebook insights: Measure through Facebook (etc.) Insights

Are You Ready to Master Your Social Strategy?

Social media in times of crisis demands a simple approach: BE HELPFUL. Sometimes help comes in the form of accurate business hours, sometimes special discounts for followers, or maybe just a funny poll. Aim to make interacting with your business convenient and stress-free. Use social media to increase community connection, for the very unusual needs of business today, and for when things go back to business as usual.

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