Social media has become such a part of so many of our lives that we often forget what made it so special in the first place.
It wasn’t the power to market to the masses, nor was it the opportunity for people to position themselves as experts in a particular field. Social media was and is, at its core, a vehicle for human connection.
That’s exactly what social media managers need to remember when dealing with horrible tragedies such as the Boston Marathon bombings. We often talk about having a communications plan in place for a crisis, and although that’s always important, the most important thing to remember is to act like a human being.
Beyond that, here are some brief guidelines:
Have a company plan in place. Meet with people in marketing, PR, communications, and social media, and anyone else who manages any kind of external, automated, and organic messaging. Make sure that everyone agrees that during a crisis, any automated messages unrelated to the crisis will be disabled. Also discuss whether you’ll be covering breaking news (depending on your industry) or whether you plan to post messages of sympathy but otherwise stay silent.
Put a monitoring system in place. To ensure that you’re always in the know, either have a news outlet that you check throughout the day or use an alert system. For example, I check msn.com for quick news before I post to social media. You might:
• Follow news outlets that provide updates on breaking news, such as CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) on Twitter, or follow news outlets on Facebook.
• Use a desktop tool, such as TweetDeck, to monitor news on Twitter. TweetDeck enables you to have tweets from handles, hashtags, or topics of interest that you’ve chosen to follow appear on your screen as they’re tweeted.
• Set up Google Alerts for breaking news.
Inform employees and your community. As soon as situation arises, send an email flagged “urgent” or post information to your company’s intranet. Link to resources and let employees know what the plan is. For example, are you going to suspend tweets? Will your editorial department create a post to provide further information that employees can post/share?
Halt marketing/promotions. Again, be human. Disable any social media messages that are unrelated to the situation at hand. Turn off automated tweets, and disable email marketing and promos if you can.
Respond to criticism. If you were behind on the news and sent a tweet that some found offensive or insensitive given the situation, simply acknowledge that to your online community. Let them know that you’re suspending any unrelated messaging.
Be a resource. As a community manager, your No. 1 goal is to always be a resource, especially during a difficult time. If you do choose to tweet or post to social media, it should be only to offer condolences and share helpful resources.
Show compassion. If your views or opinions on the tragedy or crisis are controversial, consider waiting until after the tragedy—in consideration of people’s feelings—to further discuss the topic or the issue.
Samantha Hosenkamp is PR Daily’s social media director.