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What to Post on Social Media During a Crisis

22.05.2020
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When a crisis hits – whether it’s a global pandemic like the current COVID-19 crisis, an act of terrorism or a natural disaster – it can be hard to know how to respond as a business. Over the years, there are brands who’ve misjudged tragic situations (such as Adidas and their ‘Congratulations, you survived Boston Marathon!’ email in the wake of the bombings), and others who’ve gone for the ‘radio silence’ option.

In an immediate crisis, your first step should always be to hit ‘pause’ on all your scheduled posts, until your posts can be reviewed in light of the current situation.

Beyond that, you have a few choices:

  • Continue to post as normal
  • ‘Go dark’ and switch off all your posting until it’s all blown over
  • Post entirely about the crisis
  • A mixture of normal posts and ‘crisis’ posts

The right solution for your business will be a personal decision, factoring in the personality of your brand, your audience and the impact the crisis will have had on them – as well as the scale and following impact of the crisis. It can be a delicate balance between acknowledging a crisis and appearing to capitalise on or profit from it.

Here’s an example to demonstrate:

The Boston Marathon bombing. A localised terrorist attack which had a significant impact internationally – but especially on certain groups such as the families and friends of those involved, Boston residents and the running community.

For many consumer brands, it would have been a suitable and safe response to either post a respectful acknowledgement of the incident or remain silent, possibly pause normal postings for a few days and then continue with normal – but sensitive and vetted – posting beyond that. Occasional ‘shares’ of posts relating to the incident – such as the #BostonStrong content – might also be possible, but for brands who don’t have strong links to the crisis – like local brands from other countries – this could easily be seen as capitalising on the incident to try and garner audience engagement.

But for brands which had audiences more immediately linked to the attack – such as local brands in Boston and those within the running community – it will have been much more expected, welcomed and supported for reference to the incident to happen more regularly over the following days, weeks and months. In fact, it may have been seen as strange if this didn’t happen from the brands most closely connected to these communities.

What should I post during the Coronavirus pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up some interesting challenges with social media management due to the huge global impact and continued effect it has on day-to-day life across the globe. Every business has been affected in some way or another, and every business’ audience has been affected.

This has made it much more widespread – and accepted – that businesses will post about the crisis. In fact, in many cases it’s now necessary as businesses attempt to communicate with customers about changes to their services and provision whilst they follow guidelines.

Another response that has happened with several companies is the ‘radio silence’ option, where businesses cease posting all together – perhaps because they’re currently not able to offer services. This approach can work, but if you choose it you should expect that it could take some time to rebuild your audience engagement, reach and loyalty when you begin posting again.

For many small businesses, disappearing off the face of the earth for months is a risky move – especially during these uncertain economic times, where it may appear to your audiences that you’ve had to close permanently. Where it’s suitable to do so, continued posting – even in a much reduced form – may be the better option.

What are the benefits of continuing to post?

Social media is all about building relationships, and with many people having more ‘down time’ at the moment, their use of social media has soared. It’s an opportunity for businesses who are managing their social media well at the moment to continue building on their relationships with customers. Benefits include:

  • Maintaining visibility and brand engagement with your audience
  • Creating a positive association with your brand
  • Developing audience loyalty – as many people are wanting to support small, local businesses
  • Continuing to drive traffic to your website, where appropriate
  • Continuing to generate leads and sales, where appropriate
  • Tapping into audience support – such as buying gift vouchers for when your business reopens

What content should I post?

Shareablee ran a survey, asking people ‘what type of content do you prefer from brands surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic?’

64%

content about news/public service announcements (handwashing, current infection rates, etc)

56%

content about the ‘new normal’ (work from home, homeschooling, etc)

52%

content about supporting the community (donations, acts of kindness, etc)

46%

content about optimism (better time ahead, feel good stories, etc)

It’s worth noting that the survey appears to have been entirely about COVID-19 related posts, and therefore didn’t include the options for usual, ‘normal life’ posts. As the crisis continues, many people are looking to escape the constant news and updates about COVID-19, and it can benefit many businesses and their audiences to include a number of ‘normal’ posts within the social media mix.

Looking at these statistics, it’s also important to take into account your business’ area of expertise, why your audience follow you and the personality you want to be getting across in your social media profiles.

Fake news is a real issue online – so if you run a dog grooming salon, it’s not appropriate for you to be creating general ‘news’ content, even though that’s the most popular result in the survey. The only exception to this would be any news particularly related to your niche, such as studies into whether pets can catch coronavirus or dog grooming salons being allowed to re-open.

If you think your audience follow your profile as a means of escaping current news – for example, if your profile is known for sharing recipes or yoga workouts – then you might decide you’re more comfortable barely mentioning the crisis at all. That’s completely fine too – as I’ve said above, many people are looking for a bit of normality, and your updates might be part of providing that to them.

How do I know I’ve got it right?

Even if your social media posts are all scheduled, you should still be monitoring the responses your updates are getting. Whether you’re monitoring your profiles in the native apps (ie directly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc) or through your scheduling software – keep an eye on the comments, likes and responses your content is generating. Your audience will be quick to let you know if you’re posting things that are inappropriate – so whilst there’s no need for a knee-jerk reaction to a solitary comment, be prepared to reflect and adapt your strategy if you see the sentiment change. Equally, positive comments and engagement are a good sign that what you’re posting is resonating with your audience and can be a confidence boost that you’re judging the content well.

As ever, social media is quick to change and constantly evolving – and you need to be ready to adapt your strategy and content at very little notice if there are any significant changes with the crisis.

HeyYou! Digital provide a range of social media support, including content creation, outsourced social media management and training. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help your business, please get in touch.

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Hannah Wade

Founder of HeyYou! Digital. Avid drinker of tea.

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