7 Tips for Social Media Managers During a Hurricane
Social media isn’t always about amplifying your marketing message, sharing the latest viral video, or letting others know what you’re having for dinner. It can also be a valuable communication tool during a natural disaster, like a hurricane.
With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast, federal authorities are bracing for a storm that could cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and cautioning people in some areas to make preparations for the expectation that they may be without electricity for several days.
Social media managers know all too well the feeling when crisis strikes…that drop in the pit of their stomach when there’s a negative comment on Twitter or seeing an upset customer on Facebook. For these situations, you’re a savvy social media rockstar: you have a social media plan in place to handle such situations with a comprehensive, well thought-out approach.
But what happens when a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy, strikes?
How do you quickly communicate to employees, customers and partners on the status of your business without having to overnight a print job or scramble to put employee and customer email notifications together? What’s the best way to share minute-by-minute updates, 24/7?
Social media can be the answer, if an organization’s messages are deployed responsibly, accurately and quickly.
Here’s some tips on using social media to communicate during a hurricane:
- Be prepared and be proactive – Before a hurricane makes landfall, make sure your followers know that they can follow you on your social media channels for the most up-to-date and accurate information about your business. Equally as important, make sure that you have a plan with your team on which social media channels you plan on using during a hurricane.
- Two is better than one – Work as a team with your IT and crisis management team and make sure efforts are coordinated across the teams for efficiency.
- Provide regular, consistent updates on your social media accounts – Make sure that you are providing the same message (albeit in a slightly different format) on each channel so you don’t cause confusion for followers.
- Updates should be engaging and informative – Try to avoid posts invoking emotion or posts that are irrelevant or insensitive to the current crisis – the hurricane.
- Don’t create a panic, unless you don’t feel like sleeping tonight – Social media should be used as a tool to communicate with customers during a crisis, but make sure that you share accurate information. Don’t create a panic by sharing inaccurate details or positioning posts that do not appear confident and informed. Stay calm, and help your social community do the same.
- Encourage followers to share your message – Your loyal followers and social media community can help be your best advocates during a crisis, so encourage them to help share your messages on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other outlets.
- Be tuned to regional nuances – Play close attention to news reportsand be compassionate to those in specific regions hit the hardest.
Don’t forget, there are useful organizations to follow on social media before, during and after a natural disaster for breaking news, alerts and tips. You may also want to consider following the social media channels of a local newspaper or news station in your area, or local government emergency management agencies.
- National Weather Service: https://www.facebook.com/US.National.Weather.Service.gov?sk=wall
- FEMA: http://www.facebook.com/FEMA
- NOAA: http://www.facebook.com/usnoaagov
- U.S. National Hurricane Center: http://www.facebook.com/US.NOAA.NationalHurricaneCenter.gov
- The Salvation Army: http://www.facebook.com/SalvationArmyUSA
- American Red Cross: http://www.facebook.com/redcross
- FEMA: www.twitter.com/fema
- NEMA: www.twitter.com/nema_web
- NOAA: www.twitter.com/usnoaagov
- U.S. National Hurricane Center (Atlantic): www.twitter.com/nhc_atlantic
- U.S. National Hurricane Center (Pacific): www.twitter.com/NHC_Pacific
- American Red Cross: www.twitter.com/redcross
- Hurricane app by American Red Cross (Android or iOS)
Alison Brooker is the marketing communications manager for social media at SunGard Availability Services, one of the world's leading disaster recovery and business continuity providers. She oversees all social media and manages community engagement and brand awareness online, and is an expert in social media strategy.