5 Ways to Optimize Your Social Networks for Crisis Communication

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A lot has been written in the past year about the limited reach and engagement level on various social media platforms. For any post that you put on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., you can expect only a small fraction of your potential audience will ever receive your communication, much less act upon it.

In a crisis you may find yourself in a situation where rather than pushing information out to influencers, media and customers, instead they are attempting to pull information from you. And in this scenario, your reach is far greater. The purpose of this post is to talk about optimizing your social networks so that stakeholders can effectively pull messages from them in a crisis.

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1. Fix your most important messages to the top of your social pages

pin facebook post

If you have ever seen a Google heat map, you understand that reader attention peaks at the top of the page and quickly erodes for content further down. So, it makes sense that you would want your most important communications to be at the very top of your social pages (where people will go to pull information). Major social networks such as Facebook and Twitter give you the capability to affix key social posts at the top of your page (note that this is only true for brand pages on Facebook and not personal pages).

It may also be worthwhile to consider embedding key social posts into crisis-related content or even digital press releases. This can serve to keep messaging consistent, canalize stakeholders to a specific social platform and bring a clear message in a familiar format into a broader context.

2. Keep up to date on social posts

In order for stakeholders to try to pull information from your social profiles, they may attempt to discern how up-to-date your social accounts are. What this means for you is that the social media posts that you habitually publish communicate the viability of a particular channel. For example, if you have not posted since 2013, odds are that people will not feel assured about using information or engaging you on these platforms in a crisis.

Social media reach may be low on most social platforms, but regular posting communicates freshness and relevance of recent content in the event of a crisis. Think of it as an investment.


3. Respond to posts promptly/consider autoresponders to scale


In a crisis, stakeholders may have one or more of the following:

  • Questions
  • Concerns
  • Impatience

It is important to have a social listening program in place to be able to receive social inquiries and to respond in a timely manner. In non-crisis times, this is simply social care (customer service). In a crisis, the viability of your social care program demonstrates that social channels are a means to reach you and to get answers to specific questions that a stakeholder may have. A sound social listening plan may be vital to social response in a crisis.

One idea to scale social care/social response quickly is with an autoresponder. Amazon does this quite effectively, by referring Twitter inquiries to their customer service numbers in order to conserve resources. Although this may seem somewhat impersonal, scalability is key. You cannot reasonably guess the scope or duration of a worst-case crisis, so having a plan to scale your response is important (unless you have unlimited resources, in which case skip immediately to #5).

4. Have additional resources available (and conspicuous)

If you want to know about Facebook (corporate), odds are you can find it in one single repository: Facebook’s newsroom. If you need information about the company, you can find it on the company info page. If you need photos or video about the company, you can find it on the media gallery page. If you want press releases and latest news, you can find it on the news page. And all of these are accessible through the newsroom.

Normally you might not look at a huge corporation like Facebook for attainable best practices, but in this case nearly any company can follow their example. Facebook has put all of its information in the cloud, accessible to anyone at a moment’s notice. Having a link to a newsroom type of page from your social profile can help to augment social content in a crisis and can help to reinforce your crisis messaging is sufficiently updated.

5. Pay for social distribution


You may find that pull is insufficient to communicate your message to your desired social shareholders. In this case, it may make sense to pay for such distribution. For most push content to get seen on Facebook and Twitter (to some extent), paying for promotion to your fans or to a certain desired demographic may be advisable.

You can see how the previous tips (#1-4) are helpful to support pay distribution: additional distribution creates awareness around a crisis, and viable channels, accessibility and readily-available resources in the cloud help to efficiently address concerns around the crisis. If awareness is a factor in a crisis and your email list is not as robust as you would like, paid social distribution is a fairly cost effective means to get your message out to a targeted audience.


What I wanted to do in this post was to explore some key considerations for preparing social media accounts for a crisis. In a crisis, stakeholders will want a lot of information quickly and may use social networks to ascertain this information. Proactively preparing your social profiles for crisis is key for any communications professional, especially in this environment where nearly 80 percent of adults younger than 50 use some form of social media to communicate and to receive information (and nearly 90 percent of adults 30 or younger).

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” – John F. Kennedy, 35th President, United States

“The separation is in the preparation.” – Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks

Social Media Listening

Images: r2hoxbfishadow (Creative Commons)

Tags : social media

About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.

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