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What is the appropriate social media response during emergencies?

By Axia Public Relations

32554039_sThe first reaction to a company crisis is usually to speak out and defend yourself. In social media, this can be hazardous to your brand. So what is the best way to react during a corporate catastrophe? Should your social media firm respond or not? It depends on the situation. Here is a brief primer on how a social media firm should react during an emergency.

Crisis containment – responding online

In November 2015, the sporting goods company REI had a crisis take place on social media. REI announced that its stores would remain closed on Black Friday to encourage people to spend time outdoors instead of feeding the "retail monster." The CEO held a Q&A with the public on the social media site Reddit. All was going well until employees hijacked the forum and began complaining about working conditions. Negative responses grew quickly and many prophesied doom and gloom for REI.

Instead of allowing the situation to spread out of control, CEO Jerry Strike contained the blaze by responding on Reddit where the fire broke out. He posted that he appreciated the input of REI employees and that the company would take their views into consideration. The conversation spilled over onto Facebook and REI responded swiftly. REI's social media firm contained the crisis by immediately responding where it occurred online and by not allowing it to run riot across all of social media.

Putting out fires with silence

Corporate giant General Electric is successful at putting out fires through a long-term social media strategy that maximizes positive exposure while minimizing bad exposure.

The purpose of a social media firm is to keep a brand in the public eye via a stream of great content that is consistent and builds over long periods of time. Instead of having a spotty social media presence, they steadily promote the company in a positive light.

When a fire at one of its manufacturing plants spread out of control due to old hydrants and ancient sprinkler systems, GE went silent on social media. After several days, once talk of the fire quieted, GE went back to having a constant social media presence – and the controversy blew over. A wise social media firm knows when to respond and when not to. Because GE has a consistently positive social media presence, search engines find the positive content easily, which dilutes the impact of negative content. No response was the best response in this case.

The upshot

  • A social media firm should monitor social media constantly. Craft your response based on where the issue started and how big it is.
  • When containing a crisis, a social media firm should respond on the platform where it originated.
  • A business should have a consistently positive social media presence that dilutes the occasional negative hit every company has from time to time.

During a crisis, the right social media firm will help you craft the appropriate messages to earn customer confidence and get you back on track. The experts at Axia Public Relations can serve as your trusted guides. Take the first step in the right direction before a corporate crisis occurs and download Axia's  e-book Managing Public Relations in a Crisis to ready your company today.

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Featured image credit: 123rf.com

Topics: public relations, crisis communications, shared media

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