How to Approach Social Media During a Crisis

  • Categories:

    Social Media

  • Date:

    August 18, 2020

How to Approach Social Media During a Crisis

Social Media

[Updated January 7, 2021]

During times of crisis, it’s critical to pay careful attention to your brand’s social media strategy. What, if, when and how you share, comment and act on social media can directly impact your brand anytime, and a crisis heightens that influence. Should you continue your regular content during a crisis? Is it appropriate to join the conversation?

These tips can help you determine the right path.

First: What constitutes a crisis? It may be an internal situation or a larger issue that impacts a significant portion of the population.

In 2020, of course, brands had to contend with many new crises or controversial topics, forcing them to take a closer look at how they approach and manage their social media. From the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdowns, to protests centered on racial injustice, to the boycotting of Facebook advertising and, in the first week of 2021, a violent mob's storming of the U.S. Capitol, marketers have had to think carefully about whether ongoing, brand-focused social media will serve as an asset, get lost in the shuffle or bring about harsh criticism.

Is it the right time for business-as-usual social media?

Consider these questions when deciding if it is appropriate to share content on social media and, if so, what to share:

  • How does the crisis affect those who follow you on social media?
  • Is the crisis dominating social media conversations?
  • Is now the time to sell things?
  • Will your brand appear tone-deaf to the greater issue if you post general content?
  • Do your followers care about branded content in the face of the larger conversation?
  • In addition to consumers, followers may include employees and customers. How will you be perceived by these important constituents if you post branded content at this time?

You may feel a little nervous about going dark, but there’s no harm in pressing the pause button on general social media content to ensure your brand is:

  • Able to monitor and listen to social channels to follow and understand the issue and conversations
  • Sensitive to the seriousness of the issue and how it relates to the lives of your followers
  • Safe from becoming an example in social media posts or news media articles about tone-deaf content during a crisis

In 2020, initiatives such as June’s #BlackOutTuesday reinforced the benefits of a brand not posting general content while larger issues are taking over the social media landscape. On this day in particular, black squares from brands, celebrities, influencers and consumers inundated feeds. The campaign intended to mute business-as-usual social content, allowing room in feeds for black voices and stories to be heard. Meanwhile, brands or organizations that posted regular content while those conversations were top of mind were viewed as tone-deaf, leading to many users calling out the brands for their insensitivity.

When conversations are quickly changing, it’s crucial to constantly monitor and reevaluate next steps. Ask yourself:

  • Should you pull back on any scheduled posts?
  • When is it OK to restart general brand content?
  • Should you weigh in on the topic?

Considering these questions can help ensure your brand comes out on the right side of a crisis, at least when it comes to social media.

Is it appropriate for your brand to join the conversation?

While crisis situations in social media often stem from internal factors, 2020 has been a lesson in how to respond to external crisis situations. As each crisis or social issue has unfolded this year, influencers and brands have frequently made public statements in support of the issues at hand.

Before jumping into the mix, consider:

  • Does your brand have a position on the issue that has been approved by senior leadership? If so, how and when is it being shared with employees and customers?
  • Does the company have an official position on the issue that has been approved by senior leadership? If so, how is it being shared with employees and customers?
  • How are your customers being affected by the issue?
  • If your brand were to post a statement, would it be authentic, verifiable and reflective of the company’s point of view? How will the brand live this statement? How will the company enable employees to live the statement?

As the effects of the coronavirus pandemic began to take an economic toll, many retailers were forced to shut their doors, people lost jobs, and companies shifted to working from home. Meanwhile, it became important for brands to look to social media as a way to maintain connections with consumers while being sensitive to the new normal and its myriad impacts on individuals’ lives.

For VELUX®, this meant showing that we’re all finding new meaning to "home" and encouraging followers to look for more light in the everyday. For Wray Ward, this meant asking our writers what “home” means to them and telling employees’ stories through portrait-style photography in the agency’s Inspired Series: Home Edition.

With the unpredictability of today and uncertainty about tomorrow, brands must stay on their toes, paying close attention to current events (especially issues that are important to their audience) and how these events are directly affecting the company. A healthy dose of vigilance and due diligence can help you understand whether you need to adjust your own social media strategy or if you should join the conversation. It can also be the difference between appearing in the spotlight for the right reasons — or the wrong ones.

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