How to Use Social Media to Spread the Word
“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
Can your schedule handle a crisis? Just a decade ago, your answer to this question may have been a lot different. But what about in the digital age now, is your crisis communication strategy up to par? An unexpected crisis, compounded by the immediacy of social media, makes crisis communications and reputation management critical.
Given that customers now have the ability to communicate their dissatisfaction quickly and to the masses, social media has raised the stakes when a crisis occurs. The good news is, while social media may be your biggest enemy in a crisis situation, it can also be your best ally. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may make managing a crisis trickier, but they can also help you communicate with your customers and demonstrate your commitment to them. In fact, a well-managed crisis in the digital age can not only help you retain customers, but it can lead to new customers and additional deals.
While we don’t promote creating crises just to swoop in and be the hero that quickly overcomes them, we do suggest creating a plan for when they arise. Following are several tips for effectively managing a B2B crisis using social media.
Develop a Strategy
Crises don’t usually give a warning before they emerge, leaving little to no time to do much more than react. To respond in the best way possible for your business and your customers, ensure you have proactively developed a crisis management strategy for social media before the issues arise. With the following key steps, a strategy can be quickly developed by your team:
- Assign the right team member to draft various communications that will be required in the event of a crisis using social media.
- Determine which social channels you will post crisis communication on – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. – and what additional review or approval will be needed before messages are posted. (You may also consider email and blog for updates)
- Document your plan. Everyone in the company should have a documented copy of your strategy and understand their immediate role in a crisis event.
Get in Front of the Story
As soon as news of a crisis breaks (small or large), regardless of who is at fault in that moment, it’s time to put your crisis management into action. Don’t let the story get ahead of you. This defeats the purpose of the proactive strategy you originally spent time putting together and means you’re reacting instead of steering the message.
Have your Social Tools in Place
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Social media tools can be your best ally. Make sure you have an easy way to communicate across the board and make sure all social channels you want to cover are hit. A tool like Oktopost can help schedule your posts and distribute them across various social media sites.
Know what’s going on, then speak to the masses.
Your message should be honest and explicit. With that being said, it can be easy to stray or get defensive. In the fast age of digital media, it’s never ok to post something like “no comment” or snap back with defensive Facebook comments. That can stir up speculations. If you actually don’t know what’s happening, try tweeting “We’re still gathering the facts and are committed to responding when we have all of the information.” This gives customers peace of mind knowing you’re working on a resolution. Also keep in mind, all responses on social channels are considered public statements and can easily be shared. Ensure your message is something that you want people to share broadly and quickly respond to.
Once the crisis passes, it’s important to not just leave it be. As a trustworthy business, complete the due diligence needed to understand what caused the problems and create a plan for avoiding similar situations in the future. Once you have gathered this information, craft an apology email/blog post and social messages to go out to your customers. Be direct. This is the stage where you confirm your commitment to your customers and the maintain the trusting relationships you have with them.
Prevent the Same Crisis from Occurring Again
Simply put, don’t let the same mistake happen again. If you do, your credibility will be further damaged and the goodwill you’ve created through your previous social media crisis management efforts will be lost. Businesses are never perfect and crises do occur, but do your best to ensure they’re one and done events.
Bad news happens to even the best companies. The existence of social media allows for headlines and rumors to travel the globe at digital speed. Businesses and their executives must be ready to respond quickly and effectively. And as we mentioned at the beginning, social media can be your company’s best friend during a crisis. If it’s used effectively, you can quickly provide assurance to existing customers while building your reputation in a way that impresses prospects.