How To Create Social Media During A Crisis

By: Christina Hager

This article first appeared on Forbes on April 2, 2020

I was working from home a couple of weeks ago when I got an email from someone on my team who was concerned about some content we had planned for a client. The planned content was all about spring break, vacationing, and jet setting around the globe. In light of all that is going on with the coronavirus, it would come off as insensitive, and she suggested we think about a pivot.

I was extremely thankful she let me know about that content, and I was able to spend some time strategizing with the client. I, too, was working furiously on updating content calendars for clients to make sure that whatever content they were sharing on social media in the next few weeks was appropriate for their brand and for the time.

Now, not everyone has a social media marketing team at their disposal during a time of crisis. So, whether you are an individual building your brand and thought leadership, or someone who represents a company or organization, here is a quick guide to responsible social media posting during a time of crisis:

1. Review all your planned content.

In my case, many clients were talking about spring break and basketball in their posts — all of which needed to be deleted, but also needed something else substituted in place. Review your content calendar for the next two weeks. Is there anything on there that you would feel odd about sharing during this time?

Picture your social media content sandwiched between two updates about the coronavirus or public health. If it seems tone-deaf, delete it, and save it for later.

Set a reminder on your calendar to keep checking your content calendars daily. During a time of crisis, things can shift on a dime.

2. This is no laughing matter.

Now is not the time to joke around. Already, too many brands and individuals on social media have tried to be super witty (to varying degrees of success). While it might work for some brands, when it comes to something of the magnitude of the coronavirus and COVID-19, don’t try to joke around about it. Would you joke about a mass shooting? What about a devastating tornado or earthquake? When you view it through that prism, you’ll realize that you should save the humor for things that are not related to the current health crisis.

3. Don’t get political.

Unless your brand is already a political one, this is not the time to try out politics. Stay away from blame and taking sides. Even if your company culture is one way, or if the majority of people who work for your company believe a certain thing, that doesn’t necessarily mean the people who buy your product or service feel the same. Tensions and emotions are already running high, and what you view as a simple comment may alienate your audience.

4. Stick to what you do best.

If you are a business leader or a brand that sells shoes, this is not the time to pretend to be a doctor or scientist. Do not try to extrapolate or interpret data — just stick to facts and what you know.

Now, if you want to be topical and share thought leadership, and it’s appropriate for you, then go for it. For instance, if you are a financial advisor, your audience might really be interested in a long post or blog about the economy and what they should be thinking about. If you are a doctor or healthcare worker, you certainly may have a different viewpoint that people may value, and they may love to see a video of you talking about your experience.

However, if you sell burgers and fries or you’re a speaker on building confidence, you don’t want everyone to think you fancy yourself an armchair physician.

5. Use social to be social.

Have a dialogue with your followers. If you’re an author who has an upcoming book tour or if you are supposed to speak at a large event, your fans and audience are probably wondering if you are still coming to their city or if you will be canceling. Just be honest, and let them know you’re not sure, but you’re monitoring the situation. Don’t leave them hanging.

It’s always better to provide information to people on social media before they ask for it. Check your comments and messages. Respond with purpose and in a timely manner. Now, this is the time if you do sell burgers and fries to keep your audience calm by sharing posts about how you are keeping your restaurant sanitized and employees safe.

Remember, the internet has a long memory. You might delete an inappropriately timed or insensitive tweet or social media post, but someone out there is likely to take a screenshot of it before you have a chance. Start to be mindful now, and you can avoid that situation altogether.

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