How to Handle Social Media During a Crisis

Hi friends. Let’s be honest, it’s been a tough week. Like a massive storm, it will pass, but it’s hard. Before reading further, stop and take 3 deep breaths.

Ok, let’s dive in now. The majority of our clients at Pigtail Media are in the travel space. We are all in uncharted waters right now. Coronavirus COVID-19 is creating not just a pandemic in our cities and communities, but it’s flowing to your brand’s social media pages where people are expecting immediate help. In over 10 years of managing social media, we’ve never seen anything like it.

With so many travel plans being completely disrupted, uncertainty around what will get refunded, and so much that’s simply unknown at this time, it’s no wonder customers have turned the volume HIGH on heading to social media to get help.

The normal customer service process is completely disrupted and people have been flooding to company Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages to yell, “HELP! WHY AREN’T YOU RESPONDING TO ME?”

We wanted to share some quick tips on how to handle this crisis on social media so you can come out the other side stronger: 

  1. If you can get ahead of it, do. Make an honest statement about the situation on your blog and then drive everyone to this point of information. This gives you the opportunity to field concerns in one direction and you have one location to update everyone as the situation evolves.
  2. Put a notification banner up on your website that let’s people know you’re experiencing a high volume of calls and emails and to please be patient. Also drive them to the page or blog where that updated information lives.
  3. Send an email out to your customers with this same information.
  4. Push pause on all scheduled social media marketing content. Depending on your management tools, you may have to reschedule vs pressing pause. If that’s the case, select a date way in the future so you can deal with it later and it won’t go out today. Turn off any auto-posting on Instagram. We always recommend our clients to have this feature turned off in general. If you have a scheduled post within Facebook, turn it to a draft post.
  5. Be heartfelt and honest in all of your communication. Most people are in a state of panic because they simply don’t know what’s happening. You may have plans to completely refund them 100%, but if they don’t know that, they assume the worst. Let people know you will take care of them and to please be patient as your “customer service team is working as quickly as possible to help every customer”.
  6. If you aren’t certain how you will be able to help them, say that. For example, “We are here to take care of you. It’s an evolving situation and we’re working with our team and partners to provide a fair outcome for everyone that gives you peace of mind – and allows us to stay afloat and serve you in the future. We will take care of you. Please be patient as our staff is overworked, tired and concerned for their family too. We will make it right.”
  7. Ask people that if their situation is not urgent (ex: if their travel is not happening in the next few days) to please wait to contact you. Explain that you WILL respond to everyone, but the intake is higher than your customer service can handle. Explain that you are working through urgent needs first and kindly ask for people to contact your customer service in a few days so your team can prioritize and help everyone more quickly.
  8. Double check your spelling and grammar. We’ve seen more mistakes on social media in the past 2 days than in the past 2 years. People will be forgiving, but this still impacts your brand’s professionalism and perception.
  9. Use social media to your benefit. Apply the process above to your intake of customer posts and reviews on social media.
  10. Try to take customer needs into the private inbox of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This is WAY easier to help manage their needs than in the public platform (comments), since it’s shown in chronological order. It’s also private, so you can respond about their specific order. **Remember, people can always take screenshots and share it publicly so use with caution.
  11.  Not sure how to take customer needs into the private inbox? Here’s an example: if you see a public comment on Facebook, look for the option to “message” them. It’s next to the option of “like” and “comment.” Click message, and it’ll send them a private response. Instagram and Twitter are different. Here’s a copy/paste message that may help you: “Here’s a link with updated information on the situation [link goes here]. If this does not answer your question and it’s an urgent need, please directly message us and our social media team will do our best to help you!”
  12. Take a bad situation and turn it into a positive review! Once you’ve tamed their concerns and made it right, be honest about the importance of positive reviews. Here’s a copy/paste message to use: “We’re so glad we were able to help you. Please share with others about this. We ask that if you are satisfied to please leave us a positive review on Facebook. This makes all the difference for us. We are going to take a huge hit due to this situation and we’re doing everything we can to make it right with our customers. We would greatly appreciate this act of kindness so we can get back to normal and serve everyone in the future! We appreciate you.” You might be surprised by the outpouring of love. It feels mighty good during this time.

Remember, a company that correctly handles a terrible situation is often the company that thrives after the dust settles. At the bottom of it, people just want to know they have been heard and it will be ok.

You may have an incredible opportunity to showcase the heart of your brand, the care you have for your customers and the love you have for your community and employees during this time. That has a lasting impact. Use social media to help tell your story.

Breath deeply, friends. This will pass in time. Take the right steps and do good work and you will come out of this stronger than before.

With love from the Pigtail Media team,