Using Social Media In A Crisis
Note: This blog article was adapted from a video that was created in partnership with Catalyst Branding and Business Consulting. The intent here is to provide some quick assistance to small businesses on topics that are relevant to the current circumstances we’re facing. We hope this, along with the “Get Started With an Online Store” video and blog post contains information that will help your business persevere through these challenging times.
In times of crisis, many small business owners wonder if it's OK to start using social media to reach their customers or if it's OK to continue using social media to sell their products and services.
While it might make sense to take a beat and let everybody regroup, being present to your customers through social media might be more appreciated than you realize. Here are some dos and don'ts for using social media in challenging times.
- Be prepared for a crisis. The last thing you want is to have multiple people running around releasing messages on social media or to the press. Make sure that you have an established chain of command and just one designated spokesperson. Next, decide who will create your holding message. Your holding message is just a brief message acknowledging the issue even if more information is forthcoming that might be released to the press and publish to your website and in your social media.
- Research and figure out where your ideal customers are hanging out online. You'll be able to figure out where there are concentrations of those people on different social media platforms. Establish a presence there and start developing relationships with those prospects and customers now. It's great for brand awareness; it's great for sales, but it's especially great in times of crisis if you're already there ready and waiting to provide them with useful information when they need you the most.
- Adjust your expectations for results and return on investment. Be prepared to invest more in your sales and marketing teams and to put in more effort to capture less market share. And that means doubling down on ads or adding more people to your social media team to get the same results.
- Rethink your messaging. Aggressive sales and marketing tactics when your prospects and customers are operating in fear and worry is not just distasteful, but it doesn't usually work especially in the long term. Think and talk less about yourself and products and services and talk more about your customers and what they need. Provide them with more of the information and the solutions that they need to move forward comfortably.
- Be present on social media. Make sure that you are answering your comments and private messages promptly. If you're experiencing any kind of shipping delays or backorders, make sure that you're being honest with your customers about what's happening and how you're resolving those issues. Your customers would much rather have the short-term disappointments of hearing honestly what's happening with those issues than the long-term disappointment of being strung along or just not hearing from you at all.
- Review prescheduled editorial content. If you are using the scheduler within Facebook or if you use platforms like Sprout or Hootsuite, make sure that when crisis strikes or something big is happening in your local or national news, go in and look at what you have scheduled. Just very coincidentally, sometimes some of that scheduled content can seem in poor taste or seems like commentary on something that's happening in the news but was never intended that way. Take extra care. Make sure it is still relevant and it's still appropriate.
- Don’t rush. You might feel under pressure to get a message out, but make sure that you don't rush. Typos and knee jerk reactions are just unprofessional. They can close businesses. Make sure that you take your time. Get a second pair of eyes; remove the emotion from your messaging. Timeliness is important, but don't rush.
- Don't go dark on your social media pages. In times of crisis, sometimes you want to kind of shrink away and disappear. It's hard to know what to say or what to do. It's not just unprofessional to leave customers hanging, you might leave the impression that you've gone out of business. Make sure that you don't leave your customers feeling abandoned. Even if you're just there to let your customers know that more information is coming, make sure you don't go dark.
- Don't panic and don't cause others to panic. You have this great opportunity to stop marketing and selling and pushing so hard and to really focus on developing a relationship and being a leader for your audience. You might be surprised how often your audience is really looking for that steady hand to hold, that calming voice. You can definitely rise to the occasion. Don’t panic, be the calming force that your audience needs.
Balancing your business needs in the realities we're all facing in times of crisis is never easy. But using social media in a time of crisis is really an opportunity to connect with your audience in a meaningful, heartfelt way. Be honest, be helpful. Provide your audience with leadership and support and the optimism that they really need at this time. Your customers are going to reward you with loyalty and they're going to remember anything you made them feel for a very long time.