Using Your Facebook Page in a Crisis

Alex Smith
Alex Smith Account Manager, Punch Communications

Posted on October 12th 2010

Crises are not uncommon upon brands, whether they are of their own doing or not. Since the rapid evolution of social media, many brands have come off quite badly in a crisis for numerous reasons, be it a complete lack of response or sheer flippancy in the midst of a damaging situation.

Whilst the roots of negativity around crises on social media are usually down to poor crisis communications planning, the real-time element of online communities like Facebook and Twitter have given crisis management a completely new dimension. Bad news can spread like a wildfire in the online world, and as such, more brands and businesses need to think about how they can put their social media channels to the best use in the case of a crisis:

  • Real-time information response – the fact that social networks are constantly refreshed with up-to-the-minute news regarding practically anything stretching from the online web to the real world means that it is imperative that brands use online communities as a transparent environment to communicate and update the public on exactly what is happening in a crisis, and more importantly how the brand is reacting. Failure to do this will result in a situation slowly becoming worse, more questions being asked than is necessary and ultimately a loss of face and reputation for the brand in the online world.
  • Controlled output – The output of brands into social media channels can be carefully planned and executed in an environment that they have much more control over. This is not to say that brands shouldn’t be open in a crisis, but it means that people can be given clear and concise information regarding a situation, as opposed to an interview where journalists or spokespersons may go off on tangents. The opportunity to keep the public updated using the correct language be invaluable in keeping a crisis situation to a minimum.
  • Direct response – Similarly to the above, brands can monitor their online communities within a crisis period, and identify individual cases where a direct response is imperative. Although directly responding to some users can set a precedent with others, it is much better than leaving urgent situations unmanaged. Social media can facilitate such direct responses in a number of ways, be it through comments on Facebook, or indeed direct messages through Twitter.
  • The use of rich media – As well as being a key component in the engagement process within communities such a Facebook, rich media can play a key role in the crisis management process on social media. The use of imagery can be hugely resonant within online communities. Say there is a huge fire, and a brand or business is working as hard as it can to get it under control. Images can give users a clear indication of what’s going on, how the business is working to solve the problem or situation, and the effects of that work on a stage-by-stage basis. Whether it is done through pictures or video, the use of carefully selected rich media can significantly impact the crisis management process.

Some brands have started to make the most of social networking functionality to enhance the process of crisis communications, be that through in house digital PR and social media expertise, or indeed through a social media agency. Either way, it has now become a given that brands should consider their output into online communities when it comes to the management of crisis situations.

 

Alex Smith

Alex Smith

Account Manager, Punch Communications

Geordie digital guy @ Punch Communications, big fan of football, guitars, The Independent, and Final Fantasy. http://www.twitter.com/alexsmith10
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Comments

Very good advice, Alex.  You and your readers may be interested in this blog post (and attached article) where I provide a little more depth into some of the commonly held beliefs of managing crises in this networked world:  http://www.jamesjdonnelly.com/2010/03/analyzing-five-commonly-held-beliefs-about-2-0-crises/  

Hope it helps.

Regards,
J.D.