Before delving into the social media management takeaways from this week’s events, I want to preface that this reflection is in no way meant to detract from the gravity of what occurred in Paris, nor minimize the loss of life that was mourned on the global stage. Social media is a powerful and ever-changing tool, which is frequently used as a primary source of international news; breaking stories even before formal news networks. It is for this reason that there is value in reflecting on social media best practices in the face of extreme circumstances.
As social media marketing integration becomes increasingly essential for companies, posting automation practices have become commonplace. It is far more efficient to implement a “batching” technique to the creation of content, writing copy, and scheduling posts. That is, grouping these steps in single blocks of time rather than posting to social media à la minute. This allows social media managers to get into a creative flow of writing posts all at once, while also ensuring that their day-to-day activities aren’t interrupted by a posting schedule. Social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite, TweetDeck, Autogrammer, and Meet Edgar are must-haves in your digital marketing tool kit.
When tragic, international news strikes, it is especially pertinent to be wary of your scheduled social media posts. Whether you are an independent blogger who is posting on your own behalf, an international brand, or an agency that manages a number of social media accounts for their clients, how you respond to an unexpected event can make or break your social media presence. This is when scheduled social media can quickly turn from an asset to a liability. An ill-timed social post in the midst of grief and information-seeking can look tactless, and is a public indicator that your brand’s social media is not closely monitored. Here are some recommended practices for not being caught off guard:
Unschedule all social posts while the situation is developing.
As mentioned above, the aim of this measure is to avoid having your brand’s tweet be a single beacon of cluelessness, surrounded by a feed of breaking and negative news. This indicates to your followers that you may not be as active as your posting schedule might indicate, as you are solely broadcasting, but not participating in the communities that you post in. An active community member would have seen the developing situation and been more reactive to the online environment. A static brand is not a genuine brand.
You don’t have to lose your well-crafted content. Most scheduling tools allow you to edit posts so that they can be rescheduled to a later date, or can be moved into a “drafts” section.
Connect with stakeholders to determine an appropriate course of action.
This means reaching out to brand leaders at the company you are representing online to seek their input about how the next steps should be approached. This may mean attempting to reach out to a colleague after regular office hours. Your objective is to ensure that any response from the brand is as authentic as possible.
If you are authorized to post on their behalf, endeavour to respond using the voice that the brand has curated for itself, using past posts as a guide. Look at how other companies are responding. How should your response be similar? How should a post from your brand’s point of view differ?
Avoid knee-jerk reactions. Wait until the dust settles.
It can become very easy to become caught up in the emotional fervour of the developing situation. Watching a tragedy unfold in real time can be extremely mentally taxing. If need be, walk away from your screen for a while, and take some time for yourself. Vent on your personal social media. Look at videos of cats. Anything you need to do to be able to keep a cool head when writing social posts in a professional context.
Once more information is known and a timeline of events begins to develop, you can begin thinking about follow-up posts. Avoid doing this when the events are still fresh, as there is often no shortage of misinformation, hoaxes, and ever-changing intel.
Proceed with regularly scheduled posts when appropriate.
There is no pre-determined guide as to how soon is “too soon” to continue with day-to-day content. You’ll need to continue to stay tuned in and assess the online environment to ensure that you’ve taken an appropriate amount of time. Be mindful of what those first couple of posts might say, and take extra care to avoid copy or images that might be interpreted as insensitive.
If you were caught off guard this week, use this as an opportunity to open a conversation with the brands you represent as to how they would like to approach a situation like this in the future. You can never plan for every possible scenario, but you can create a document outlining a protocol for unpredictable situations that require in-the-moment reactions. Ask your team: Who has permission to delete scheduled posts? Who should your brand contact should be for event-specific public statements? Under what circumstances should this protocol be activated? Reactive social media does not necessarily mean that it is devoid of all structure.