Social media crisis situations
Will social media save your company in a crisis? Probably not, unless it started on social media or your company is extraordinarily dependent upon social media for your daily functions. And I will qualify that further below.
If you have a home-healthcare company who primarily serves the elderly and you have a crisis within your company, you can tweet all day and night and it isn’t likely to have much of any impact. If you own a car dealership, however, where you deal every day with the public – wait, no; you can still probably get away without a Twitter or Facebook account just fine even if an average customer vociferously complains about you online.
The keys are consistency and authenticity. Here is this simplest rule regarding communication I would advise you remember when your company faces crisis: use every channel through which you normally communicate with customers, investors, and other stakeholders throughout the crisis.
Illustrating a lack of consistency
If you use social media to tell your customers about special deals or to communicate during good times, you should make certain to use the same channels to talk to them when things are rough. To go quiet on channels you normally use only makes you look bad and maybe even guilty.
Barton Creek Mall in Austin, for instance, regularly greets customers who check in with a welcome message and notifications of discounts. When they had a crisis which required evacuation last year, though, there was no mention of the problem and no notification when the mall re-opened.
Inconsistency on social media can be far worse than having no account at all. The local dealership from which I bought my car has Twitter integrated into its website, but it went silent last May when whatever college intern they had maintaining it went on summer vacation. My and others’ complaints sit, populating their once active feed.
Coming out stronger than you were before
Likewise, if you only promote your product, never engage, and simply are not very interested in social media during normal times, nothing you say during a crisis through those channels will have much impact.
None of this goes to say that there is no value in social media. It can make you come out of the other side of a crisis stronger than before the problem arose. But in the end, it is just another tool that you can either use or not use effectively.