How To Approach Social Media During Crisis

Last updated: 06-03-2020

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How To Approach Social Media During Crisis

Let me start by saying right off the bat, I don’t have all of the answers. And when it comes to issues of race or gender inequality, I’m a privileged white male who can barely comprehend what others have to face every day. As I write this on a sunny Sunday afternoon in late May, America is being rocked to her core by incredibly divisive and violent issues – the root of which has been going on for far too long.

It’s sad and terrifying that as a species, it often takes such dramatic and terrible events to wake us up from our complacence. I can only hope that the events of 2020 will have been so traumatic and impactful that society makes tremendous leaps forward.

What I can tell you is that, personally, I have renewed conviction. Before now, I’ve largely focused my attention on inequalities in the social media space – within the industry I’m most familiar with. I’ve published about the inequality of event speakers and promoted women and POC on my social channels. But it’s not enough. I need to do more.

As I spent the weekend reading and considering how I could be more helpful, several ideas started to occur, as well as immediate actions I needed to take.

So this is going to read more like a checklist of what I’ve already done, rather than what you must do. I’m not going to try to tell other brands and business owners how to manage their social media right now. In a world where businesses have been shuttered for months only to have protests marching outside their doors just as they’re about to re-open, who am I to tell you what to say on social media?

In fact, the one thing I’ll push, the one approach I’d like all of us to take more on social media is to be patient, particularly with small business owners who are doing it all and are already overwhelmed. Please, before you judge another account’s social media activity and think that they should or should not be doing something, have patience. Give them some grace, and consider reaching out and asking how they’re doing.

With that said, what I want to share with you is the thought process and series of actions I went through as I came to the conclusion that changes needed to be made. While everything I’m about to share applied to my personal social media profiles – particularly Twitter – note that most of my social media usage, even on my personal channels, is for professional purposes. So you can consider your own brand as you read this and know that I my approach and thinking were completely from a business perspective.

I will also pop back in here from time to time with updates on how my perspective may have changed or anything else I came up with or was suggested to do.

I use and love Agorapulse. I’ve been an avid fan and ambassador since 2016 and employee since 2018, and love some of the automation capabilities the tool offers. But today, I was more thankful for the easy ability at which I could stop it all.

You see, the very first thing that any social media manager needs to consider when something terrible has happened, some crisis, is how and what to stop. Facebook posts, tweets, uploaded videos, advertisements… all of that activity on social media is going out and sending a message right in the middle of someone else’s crisis. So the question you have to ask yourself is:

Is my content going to be appreciated right now? Will my customers feel helped and heard?

And since you may have a lot going on, the easy first step is to Pause Everything.

Within Agorapulse, I use queues to share my content so that I can control what and how often certain kinds of content are going out, and thankfully each queue has a Pause button that I can access even within the mobile app. It took 2 minutes to log in, flip through my profiles, and make sure that all of my queues were paused.

I then opened my Facebook Ads app and made sure my ads were paused too. Now, if time permits, it’s better to review the ads and only pause those that need to be paused, as disrupting the ads can lessen their effectiveness. But it was an easy call on my part. And, once again, something that I was able to from my smart phone with the proper apps installed.

A quick checklist for you to run through:

Second, Consider Your Message

Once you’ve paused or stopped all public activity, you’ve given yourself a chance to consider what your next steps are exactly.

Since the issue was significant enough to get your attention and move you to pause you activity, it’s likely that what you say on social media going forward needs to be changed or adjusted to fit the circumstances.

During the pandemic and lockdowns, it was critical for brands to be sensitive to what their audiences were going through, even as they themselves struggled.

In this case, personally, I didn’t feel right sharing evergreen blog posts to social media like I typically do, particularly to Twitter. In fact, just as tensions across the country were erupting, my family and I were on our way to pick up a new puppy – something we’d been planning and saving for for months. It honestly felt weird that evening sharing puppy pictures to Facebook and elsewhere, but I knew many of my friends and family wanted to see this cute fur ball, and I also hoped that a little adorable puppy might make folks smile for a moment.

But after that, I made drastic changes.

I stopped all posts to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and then spent a significant amount of time on Twitter reading posts from others, following new sources of information, and amplifying those messages that I thought needed to be heard right now.

In these first few hours of activity I learned and decided quite a few things. Chief among them was how ignorant I really am when it comes to these and many other issues, so becoming more informed and aware became a priority. But I also decided what my personal message was going to be – one of sharing, amplifying, and helping in ways that I’m best suited to.

I have some experience and expertise when it comes to social media and communicating, so that’s one way that I can help right now. I can help others navigate what to do today. Similarly, when I talked to our social media manager at Agorapulse, we came to the exact same conclusion. The best thing that Agorapulse can do today is help other social media managers figure out what to do.

I also took time to consider my profile image, cover photo, bio and other aspects of my profile. While I haven’t deemed it necessary to make any changes at this time, that may change. It’s definitely worth considering what, if any, message you’re sending with your profile that could be taken differently today than intended.

This is the part that I struggle with the most. Maybe it’s just me, but knowing what to do, exactly, in a crisis situation isn’t clear.

Should I march with others and protest? Should I call my government representatives? Should I fill my social media planner with motivational quotes?

This is definitely where I am still a work in progress but what I’ve decided for now is, as I said, to amplify messages that need to be heard, and to work to help others in any way I can, using the gifts and platform I’ve been given. I think this is an important point that my social media marketing friends and influential brands need to consider – if you’ve been doing social media for a while, you’ve no doubt established one or more successful profiles with a nice following. You’ve established a platform on which you can stand and be heard.

For me, Twitter is my best platform, along with this blog, so I’m using that platform more than ever to help be a voice for change, starting with this post. Twitter is where I have the most followers, yes, but as a network it’s also the most conducive to this kind of discourse. I can follow and amplify whomever I wish, and those who follow me can share my messages easily and further amplify them.

So I created a new queue in Agorapulse and quickly put together a week’s worth of messages that I thought people – specifically social media managers – would need to hear right now. And I’m committed to taking time each day to work on listening and sharing and learning. I’m filing my social media planner with kind, helpful, resourceful information.

What will you do? What will you do differently? Where will you stand up and be a voice?

Many others aren’t so blessed. We’re seeing people march in protest because they don’t have the platform we do. By joining with others they are creating their own platform and I cannot help but respect and applaud that. 

By combining my voice with others on Twitter, I believe that together we can all help to raise awareness of issues and help effect change. If hundreds and thousands of us are sharing messages of positivity right alongside visuals of what’s really happening in society, other people who were unaware or ignorant of the truth may see it and come to help impact change themselves.

So that has been my approach to social media in crisis. I stop everything, reflect on what I need to change, and then act on those ideas. I’m humble enough to admit that I’m not always right. There may be those who disagree with this approach or disagree with my resulting action, and that’s completely OK.

What’s important, particularly during issues like this, is that we talk more. And one of the things that’s been made clear to me, specifically about the racial divide, is that people like me have been silent for too long. So I encourage you to take the time you need to learn and grow, and then speak up and speak out.


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