Crisis Response and Social Media Strategy

t-rex in the rearview mirror

Ready for a crisis when it appears?

Often when we think of a social media strategy, we think of marketing. Create a plan, make a content calendar, and build campaigns.  But organizations also need a strategy to respond to a crisis using social media (SM) and ones that emerge in SM.

Many organizations and boards use an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) approach for dealing with a crisis. But that ERM was probably overseen by an audit committee or some group other than a social media team. In fact, the SM team might not even be in-house. The traditional ERM might have originally considered things like disaster recovery (fire, flood, hurricanes) and had its purview expanded to oversee things like cyber readiness. A well prepared organization’s risk mitigation should also have pre-reviewed  SM responses ready.

Betsy Atkins, writing in Forbes, suggests that you prepare for your ten most likely risks. Having prepared such strategies and taught students to do so, I know that though there may be some industry typical risks that are obvious, you really need a list customized to your organization.

For example, Atkins suggests that for a restaurant, those risks might include a wide range from food poisoning, to a #metoo issue, or a breach of customer info, to an armed attack/active shooter.

She notes that the difference between Starbucks’ speedy response on an alleged racial bias issue contrasts poorly with the poor responses by United Airlines concerning passenger abuse removal scandal followed by a puppy suffocation death.

In a time when customers are more likely to tweet their anger with your organization or post a bad review, you need to respond very quickly and as proactively as possible. I was a MoviePass customer and I saw many complaints on social media about service and all received the same boilerplate “contact us privately” kind of response. I knew they were in trouble. Beyond the person who posted their complaint, there were many more readers of it who had the same issue or would have in the future and they saw that the company was avoiding any public response.

Is there any crossover between the marketing side of SM and the risk management side? There should be. Since I work frequently in higher education, I was interested in an article about how George Washington University is using campus influencers  to market for them. Using students, alums, campus leaders is not unique, though much of what you see online is probably accidental rather than intentional marketing. These participants received a package of GW “swag” and were asked to post about GW at least three times a month using the hashtag #GWAmbassador and attend at least two events at GW (tickets provided) each semester if they live in the D.C. area.

The article was vague on details but said that “officials” would provide these ambassadors with “expectations” about how to promote the given material. I hope those expectations are carefully worded and thorough in their coverage since you have designated these people as ad-hoc members of the marketing team. Are they disclosing that they were given the ticket to the event they are posting about?  If they wear their GW hat and sweatshirt at a gun control rally and post a photo without the official hashtag are they still representing the university at some level?

The campaign sounds okay, and the few examples I saw in Twitter seemed innocent enough. Are they ready to respond to a crisis emerging from it?

 

The Right Social Networks

It is clear nowadays that there is not one recommendation you can make about social media for all businesses.

Though Facebook launched in 2006, it was a niche for at least a year until it was opened to everyone in late 2007. At that time, it had 100,000 business pages (pages which allowed companies to promote themselves and attract customers).

At that time, clients would ask me “Shouldn’t we have a Facebook page?” though they weren’t sure why they needed one but it seemed to be the “thing to do.”

Today, every business probably needs a social media presence, but the question to ask is which networks do they need.

Caroline Gillan at Launch as Digital Content Specialist did this video on that question.

The 7 biggest networks have been relatively the same for the past few years.

  1. Facebook still has the widest penetration of any social network in the U.S. 68% of U.S. adults are on Facebook.
  2. Instagram – owned by Facebook – has come on strong the past few years and has now surpassed a billion monthly users. While younger people seem to be leaving Facebook for their parents, Instagram with its easy image-focused mobile interface has grabbed the 18-29-year-old share.
  3. And if the teen to young adult segment is important to your brand, then Snapchat is a network to use. It’s most popular with 13-24-year-olds, and especially with teenage girls.
  4. If the Millennial (arguably 18-29) users with their generally higher income bracket are your target, Twitter is a social network to use. It also has more of an even split between male and female users.
  5. The popular image-based network Pinterest bridges both the 18-29-year-olds and the 30-49-year-old markets and has a predominantly female user base. It also skews towards women with young children. But the women points out that 40% of new sign-ups are from men, so a shift is occurring.
  6. Many people still don’t think about YouTube as a social network but only as a place to find videos. Not only is one of the top social networks, but it is also the second-largest search engine. Why? Because people are very often looking for video results. That is certainly a major consideration for any brand.
  7. LinkedIn continues to be a popular network with higher income-level users, and for businesses to be more B2B, generate sales leads and find employment candidates. The fact that it is not popular for teens and the younger demographics is what makes it popular with another segment.

A topic for another post that jumps off for here concerns the many other social networks that are smaller and more niche but that might be more importance to some brands. Are you a restaurant? Then Yelp and other review sites are more important to you than other industries. Having a presence in the top 7 networks may be an important start to your SM strategy, but it certainly does not end there.

Timing Is (Almost) Everything

In comedy, they saying that timing is everything. In social media, if not everything, it is something that needs serious consideration.

You can find many recommendations for when to post online, but the problem is that they are generalizations. The real answers about when to post need to be specific to your audience.

In real estate, they say location matters. That is also true for social media.

A restaurant in almost any city draws its customers from the local area. If you are in Washington D.C., posting for that time zone and around the times when people are apt to be looking for dining suggestions (Are you a breakfast or dinner place?) is optimal. A restaurant in San Francisco needs other posting times.

If your business has wider national or international reach, you may need a strategy that includes multiple accounts, such as Twitter handles, for each region.

How well do you know your audience? Questions to consider: What time are people waking up? Are they accessing your resources during work hours, evenings or weekends?

There are many free and pay tools to help you find the best time to post, such as Audiense,  and using an auto-scheduler dashboard (such as Hootsuite) then allows you to schedule social media times based on when they have performed the best.

Hootsuite has recommended Best Times to Post on the big 3: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Facebook is interesting for timing. One thing you might not consider at first is that  75 percent of your Facebook post’s engagement will happen within the first five hours and 75 percent of your post’s lifetime impressions are reached after just two and a half hours. These posts do not have a long shelf life or “legs”

The “half-life” of a Tweet is said to be only 24 minutes and Tweets reach that 75 percent mark in less than three hours.

You will find online many recommendations for specific networks. For example, for The Huffington Post , the recommendations for maximum retweets is to post at 5 p.m. and 12 p.m., and the best days for business-to-business organizations is, not surprisingly, Monday through Friday, but for business-to-consumer it’s the weekends and Wednesdays.

Takeaway: Know your audience’s social media habits and customize to that profile for each network.

 

Infographic via Kissmetrics, a behavioral analytics and engagement platform
built for marketers and product teams.