Post by Kim Sigelman.
I’ve heard the phrase “these are unprecedented times” more times in the past few weeks than I could ever count. But the fact of the matter is – these are unprecedented times. Businesses have to adjust almost daily. With many companies moving to remote workspaces, brick and mortar stores closing, and business models flipping on their sides, it's more important than ever to have solid social messaging to communicate with your customers effectively.
But how do you cut through the noise to ensure your message is delivered? Furthermore, is your message pertinent right now, or can it wait? We’ve all seen social media posts that have not only fallen flat, but they've also wholly failed and left brands scrambling.
Here are 6 tips for successful social media marketing during times of crisis. None of these are foolproof – but hopefully, they will provide a basis for your brand as you navigate this highly volatile time.
1. Be proactive, assuage fears; don't cause panic.
The news is scary right now. Brands need to communicate with their customers but should create content using appropriate tone and context. In the middle of our current crisis, many brands took to their social channels to announce they were proactively reducing hours or closing stores altogether. FreePeople, a global clothing retailer, for example, announced that they were not only closing stores but were revising their return and refund policies. Additionally, they assured customers that their employees would be paid during the closures. This positive and proactive attitude went a long way to show their commitment to their people - both customers and employees.
2. Content should be relevant. If you aren’t affected, choose silence.
Everyone is feeling all different kinds of ways right now. We're anxious, we're tired, and (if you're like me), we're continually scrolling to see the latest updates. It can be really tempting to have your brand join the conversation. Before you post anything, remember that silence is always better than sticking your foot in your mouth. Unless it isn’t. If the crisis directly impacts your accounts, get the people that need to be together – together. Form a plan and say what needs to be said. For instance, one of my clients is a non-profit organization that supports homeless outreach organizations in their community. Their stakeholders need to hear how they are helping people experiencing homelessness.
3. Check your content. And reschedule if necessary.
Most of us rely on schedulers to plan our content weeks and, if you’re very efficient, months in advance. Check your scheduled posts and move anything that isn’t relevant or in the right tone. Our team got together and pulled every scheduled post that wasn’t appropriate (See Tip #1) and developed new content to convey messaging relevant to today.
We live in the (mis)information times. Before you repost or share content – FACT CHECK. FACT CHECK. FACT CHECK. Don’t assume because another “reputable source” posted something that it’s correct. And if you are unable to verify the information, it’s better to find other content to share.
4. Check your approvals.
If you typically have the latitude to create content without client or higher up approval, check in with your team. It's essential to get the messaging right the first time. Getting your team to sign-off is vital. If you don't have a team, inventory your personal and professional network. Can you run your content by a former colleague whose opinion you value? Reach out to them and ask if they have time and are willing to review your content to make sure the tone is appropriate for the time.
5. Set expectations.
None of us know how long this crisis is going to last. (Wouldn't it be nice if we did?) Now is not the time to worry about social media growth and your typical KPIs. You can get back to that in a month when the new normal is established. Focus on creating open, transparent communication, and encouraging engagement. Your stakeholders may be worried about several different things, and your posts may become a safe space for them to communicate their concerns.
6. Engage. As often as you can.
For those of you who run accounts in industries that are directly affected (travel, healthcare, grocery, etc.), engagement should be your primary focus. Stakeholders need to be heard, and they need to know you are listening. I've tried to always respond to comments and inbox messages within 24 hours, but for affected industries, it's important to respond to questions and comments faster. Take a look at Southwest Airlines Twitter feed. They do a great job of responding to all comments – positive and negative – quickly.
These are tough times.
In this technologically advanced age, social media is integral in communicating during a crisis. Tone-deaf or irrelevant content will be, at best, lost in all of the noise. At worst, it could damage a brand's reputation. Be measured, strategize, and post in moderation. Don't waste good, but not appropriate or timely, content now. Save it for when we get through this together.
Have you seen a brand that's doing social media well right now? Share their handle and this post on LinkedIn. I'd love to give them a follow.