In today's 'always connected' world, managing a
corporate crisis requires a thoughtful and sophisticated approach
when it comes to social media. A well-run social media program
during a crisis is a tool to inform stakeholders and respond to
conversations that develop among customers, employees and other
audiences. Conversely, poor use of social media can exacerbate a
situation, aggravate stakeholders and even cause regulatory
The guiding principle for companies should always be to engage
simultaneously across traditional and social media channels; do not
wait for one to inform the other. Often, social media is used in a
reactive manner only in a corporate crisis; there would need to be
extremely good reasons to be proactive, for example if it was
inevitable that the information would be widely published.
Social media can be used effectively to interact with other
channels – for example, Twitter can be used to link back to
more detailed materials on a company's website. The power of
this should not be underestimated; injecting a company's own
perspective at the right time during a crisis can change the course
of the conversation.
It is vital to use a single, official account for each channel.
Limit activities to 'fight the fire where it is burning'
– meaning if a company is under scrutiny on Twitter,
responding on Facebook may inadvertently alert a new audience to
the issue. Avoid cross-pollination of channels.
Companies regularly come under fire for censoring debates;
editing a customer's comments is seen as particularly
underhand. As conversations play out on social media, the company
should assume the role of informing the discussion and creating a
centralised 'clearing house' for crisis information, which
is a crucial mythbusting tool.
Companies should take a sophisticated, analytical approach to
identifying key influencers to target or engage with through a
crisis. Twitter should be used as an immediate tool to respond to
comments on a crisis, keeping the tone of any messaging personal
and responsive. Twitter can be used to link to content on a
company's website or microsite that may have been created to
house information related to the situation.
Use of relevant hashtags will ensure that the company's
voice is heard in the conversation, and can also be a useful tool
when tweeting key information updates in real time.
In a crisis situation, a company's Facebook page can be a
useful news distribution hub. The opportunity to share live images,
video content and even host Q&A sessions can have significant
impact on the course of the conversation. Facebook can be used to
summarise and disseminate key points from media releases or
conferences, as well as offer an opportunity for more in-depth
LinkedIn can be particularly useful to direct information to
employees and key suppliers during a crisis. As with other
channels, LinkedIn can offer links to a company's website or
microsite, ensuring that officially released information is tightly
controlled. Ongoing updates through a channel such as LinkedIn
allows peers, employees and the market to remain informed.
A social media strategy which quickly identifies key influencers
and addresses the situation where the conversation is most active
is the first step to successfully navigating a crisis situation
online. A combination of these tactics will ensure that audiences
remain informed, while enabling the company to attain a level of
control around the messaging in a corporate crisis.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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