Social Crisis Management, the Sequel – Takeaways from the Boston Marathon

Post by @ChelseaHartling

This past week, our world was shaken when the first bomb went off during the Boston Marathon. There’s no doubt that it was a huge tragedy that changed and affected people all around the world. No matter where you get your information from, whether it’s online or televised, social media is a driving force for spreading breaking news. During the Boston bombing and the events that followed throughout the week, the Digital Royalty team not only had the television on constantly in the background, but we had our eyes glued to Twitter where some of the most urgent updates were spreading.

While the conversation surrounding Boston continued to dominate social conversations throughout the week, there were definitely some major Twitter faux pas that stood out (enter: the need for social media education.)

So how exactly should we all respond to something like the Boston Bombing on social?

Stop and Think

It’s simple, and it’s something we live by at Digital Royalty: be real, and use your best judgment. Also, think before you tweet. Be honest, does your best judgment tell you to continue sending out promotional tweets asking people to buy your product while a possible terrorist attack is happening? My gut says no. So if you have a promoted tweet campaign running on Twitter, our recommendation is to pause the campaign and free up the Twitter feed for news updates.

Stop Scheduled Tweets

“But Chelsea,” you say, “we didn’t know that tweet was going to go out because we scheduled it a month ago.” I understand that scheduling tweets is sometimes convenient and can be a time-saver. But as a general rule of social media thumb, don’t “set it and forget it.” You still need to be accountable for what you’re sending out, whether it’s scheduled or not. If you manage your social accounts by scheduling posts, then the first thing you need to do when you catch wind of a possible crisis situation is go into your scheduling software, put a halt on your posts, and re-schedule them for a different time.

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Another best practice for using social (this is true in general and not just during a crisis situation) is to LISTEN to the conversation. If you log in to Twitter, make sure you listen to what people are talking about before you tweet. What’s trending right now? If you see the hashtag #MarathonBombing is the number one trending topic worldwide, you might want to look into what people are saying about that before you proceed with sending your tweet. Social media is not media; it’s communication. And it never stops. Twitter is a great resource for figuring out what people are talking about right now. Step outside your brand bubble for a second and evaluate if it’s the appropriate time to be sending that particular message out. The last thing you want is to be perceived as insensitive during a time like this.

The @Boston_Police Twitter account did an amazing job of listening throughout the entire situation and became a primary source of information during the week. They jumped in and used their voices to track and correct misinformation that was spreading, and also helped to promote safety to their frightened community. They listened to the questions many of us were asking and responded with as much information as possible to keep everyone up to speed on any advancement in the case. Huge hat tip to them for their incredible work.

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Address It

Remember: you can’t un-post something. Once it’s out there, it’s likely been seen. So what happens if you reported on false information or retweeted information that you later found out wasn’t true? Handle it the same way you would handle any other social crisis situation – don’t hide from it. Address it. Don’t try to let it blow over a la CNN. Own up to it and move on. Your fans and followers will respect you for it.

On that note, if you’re a global brand with tons of fans and followers, keep in mind that people are constantly looking at you. In these types of situations, it’s ok to address what’s going on and issue a statement of sentiment, even if it doesn’t directly affect you. Again, your fans and followers will appreciate you and respect you for addressing it rather than pretending it’s not happening.

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It’s also ok to act as a resource and use your influence on social to do good and share information. The Boston Celtics have over a million followers on Twitter, and they chose to use their huge influence to help reach as many people as possible by retweeting official information from sources like the Boston Police and the Massachusetts State Police.

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Unfortunately, these types of catastrophes happen from time to time (and thankfully not more than they already do). From a social media perspective, it’s important to be prepared and know how to respond before crisis mode occurs. The best thing you can do is listen and think before you tweet.

Side note: The Digital Royalty team continues to keep the marathon runners, spectators, and citizens of Boston in our thoughts. #BostonStrong

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