During the last few days, there has been a terrible attack on Paris. Many people stopped what they were doing to share their sympathy and outrage. As a social media manager, what do you do when such an attack occurs? How do you handle an emergency? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
What Constitutes an Emergency?
An emergency is a dire situation that makes you stop and take notice. You may have to take immediate action to prevent loss of life. However, on social media we are all more connected than ever before. The world seems smaller at times. A tweet from the United States can reach France in a millisecond. Because of our emotional connection, we often react as though the event occurred to us.
Local, Regional, National, and International Emergencies
An emergency could involve just a few people around you. A local school might have a water main break. A regional emergency might involve an issue with air quality due to a factory explosion. An international emergency, such as the recent shootings in France, while not physically involving those in other countries, involve everyone because of the emotional aspect.
How Many People Are Involved?
If only a person or two is involved in the emergency, we might choose to ignore it on our social media. For instance, a local hero might have been in a car accident. Although very sad, something like that might not stop us in our tracks. The people at Mass Shooting Tracker track shootings when four or more people are shot. Without being callous, sometimes the number of people involved in a shooting determines our response.
What is Your Social Media Strategy for Dealing with Emergencies?
Strategy for emergencies has gotten trickier and more complex. Five years ago, school shootings did not seem commonplace. Now they are occurring all the time. We seem emotionally tired from all the violence in the news. By the way, if you want to read my post about Social Media in 60 Minutes a Day, here you go!
When an Emergency Occurs, Do You Post?
Often people do not have phone service during disasters, but they may have access to Twitter or Facebook. Many want to stay out of the way when there is a chaotic situation, as misinformation can rapidly spread. Scientific American discusses ways that social media has changed disaster response in their excellent article.
Do You Go Dark?
If you go dark on your account, how long do you wait before you post again? What is a reasonable amount of time? An hour? A day? A weekend? I often find that talking to others helps me to determine how long to wait before posting.
Do You Continue Selling Your Product or Service?
Whether you continue selling is an important consideration. If one of your brand attributes is compassion, not selling is a good strategy. On the other hand, if you provide rescue animals during emergencies, then an offer of help would be appreciated. If you sell diamond rings, however, then you are likely to face a serious backlash if you continue to sell during a school shooting.
How Will You Handle An Emotional Outburst on Your Account During an Event?
When there’s an emergency, people often get very emotional. They may vent on your page. How will you handle this? Will you respond at all?
Is There a One-Size-Fits-All Response?
Unfortunately, there is no one best response to an emergency. Most people prefer to go black, regroup, then decide what the best response is. Some go dark for a day or two and resume posting. Others never stop posting.
Which Agencies to Check?
Who needs to handle this? Here are a few places to check:
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation
- The Central Intelligence Agency
- The American Red Cross
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency
One of the best places to check during an emergency is with a government agency on Twitter. For instance, if you feel an earthquake, a quick look at Twitter will let you know where it is, how large, and what to do (if anything).
Talk to Me
Do you have a social media strategy for emergencies, or do you prefer to “wing it”? Leave me a comment!
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