How to build a social media crisis management strategy

We're living in truly unprecedented times, we haven't been met with a crisis on this magnitude since the banking collapse in 2008 and even that seems fairly trivial in comparison. Most brands focus on possibles crises that may affect their brand's reputation, operation, leadership or employees. Very few companies would have been prepared for a global pandemic and who could blame them? Not many saw this coming or had enough time to manage the fallout. So, most of us are working on a reactive basis and how you adapt as a brand might possibly determine whether you traverse this crisis or fall by the wayside as many companies undoubtedly will.

The playbook has literally been chucked out of the window, developing a holistic crisis management strategy that encompasses all aspects of your business and deploying it effectively will help you steer the ship to safety. Social media is a key element to this crisis management strategy.

Scale back, don't cut back

Although it seems like now is the time to panic, this is one thing you certainly should not do. Fortune favours the brave and being level headed and resolute with your marketing will make a huge difference. The fact of the matter is, most of your competitors will be panicking and will be cutting costs left, right and centre.

Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful
Warren Buffet

Marketing is often the first item to be cut from the budget, but before you get your red pen out, stop and think, is this conducive to the success of your business when all this ends (and it will end). The answer should be, no. The quote above from Warren Buffet has never rung more true that it does now, as other companies panic and cut back or completely stop their marketing communications. In doing so your marketing share increases and the cost of acquiring new customers decreases as there is less advertising competition.

By all means, if you need to save some money for the short term - scale back the advertising spend and focus on organic social media. Get creative, be informative, be funny but avoid the hard sell.

Avoid the hard sell - Softly does it

Right now, companies are panicking and you can certainly tell the ones that are. All the companies that are pushing the hard sell and discounting wreak of desperation and by doing so will only have the following effects:

  • Switch people off. People are not in the position to part with a lot of cash at the moment. Many have lost their jobs, had their salary reduced or are just uncertain about the future of their jobs. In times of uncertainty people will not be pulling out their debit cards to purchase, but rather cutting back to save.
  • Cut your margins and in-turn your overall bottom line. Beyond this discounting for such a long period of time can have other very detrimental effects on your business in the long term.

So, what should you be posting? Keep posts light, funny, informative and positive. People need a bit of light relief and this is something you can provide them through social media. By doing so and avoiding the hard sell, you will keep your followers engaged and reduce people unsubscribing from your social media platforms. Focus on communication and a sense of community, answer your community's questions and position yourself as a port in the storm. Below are a few examples of brands we think have handled the crisis well on social media.


Get organised

There's nothing like being organised. Plan in your communications a week in advance and have members of your team on hand to reply to messages and react to responses (good or bad). If you're lucky enough to have an internal marketing team, start the Monday morning off with a group ideas session (over Skype or Zoom of course). The ideas will soon start flowing and before you know it you will have a tonne of posts ready to roll.

Nowadays there is a lot of fantastic social media tools and schedulers that can help you pull together a calendar and schedule of posts. Don't have an internal marketing team? No problem, any marketing agency worth their salt will be able to help come up with ideas and create content to schedule in for your brand.

One thing that is important to note is that situations and events can swing violently in an instant, a piece of content that you may have deemed appropriate quickly becomes inappropriate if events change. Make sure you have people in your time that can react at a minute's notice, amending schedules, changing posts etc.

Measure, analyse and improve

This is something that has never happened before in the social media age, yes there have been individual crises for businesses but absolutely nothing that has caused this much global fallout for so many countries, companies and most importantly people. As mentioned earlier, the rule book has literally been booted out of the window, so what works for one brand might have severe consequences for others. As a business owner or marketing professional you should know what the ethos of your brand is. Stick to this ethos and convey messages that both resonate with your brand values and provide light relief for your target audience.