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What happens after a disrupting event? Everything Changes. So Should You.
This is the fourth in the series on Managing Social Media through a Prolonged Crisis.
Now it’s time to look at the thinking and process to wake up your social media channels so you are ready when country starts to open up too.
We’re making the assumption here that you may have let your social media sit idle or may have pursued an interim schedule to assist your community or industry. We’re also assuming that you’ve studied your audience changes, their new consumption habits and can see what’s different from last year at this time.
The first thing to do is to test the limits of your social network.
How to Test the Social Network
You can’t just go back to the way things were before this happened. Going into a full posting schedule for most organizations might make your audience’s heads explode.
Instead, try this.
Try one or two test messages at what would normally be a peak time of day for your audience. You know, fly a trial balloon as the military would say. Then heavily monitor the sentiment around those messages, including reactions, comments and shares.
Analyze your results.
What are you seeing? Positivity or persecution? Thumbs up or angry emojis? Or the reaction could be really mixed. Let the data from the reactions guide your next move.
How about another test at another peak time? It may or may not be “safe” to resume a full social media schedule.
Keep doing this until you find your new set point. Hint: your pace, tone and message types could all change ….and might be different for each social network.
If you follow this process, for each social channel you were managing proactively BEFORE the health crisis, you will have sufficient data to justify your decisions going forward.
Then you can look at waking up the channels.
Waking Up the Channels
Our team has frequently taken over a brand’s social media after a key event or taken on a brand’s social network after a period of dormancy. The process described above is part of what we call “waking up the channels.” It’s different for every brand we’ve managed and the pace is wildly different for different industries – health care organizations and travel brands have different audience types and expectations.
When should you do this?
- After a crisis and ESPECIALLY, after a global crisis
- After a change in management team or focus
- After long periods of dormancy in a network or network ecosystem.
By testing before going into “normal” mode, you will get a better sense of what your audience is expecting and what they need.
Resuming a Normal Posting Schedule
Because everything has changed in the ways we do business and our online communication skills have been tested and refined during stay at home time, it’s important to take time to build your new posting schedule.
It might take longer than a couple days. It may be weeks or months before you’re at full capacity again.
It’s important to watch for the clues that your message is resonating with your audience and that you’re giving them what they need. Focus on service information and above all, continue to be a helper in your community. Humility and gratitude will go a long way in this environment. Be extremely cautious when putting on your marketing and sales hats for your brand.
While we all were consuming content at a staggering rate while staying at home, consumers will come out of this more discerning. And by discerning, I don’t mean the technical quality of the content. I mean discerning from the standpoint of authenticity in messaging.
We admired the ability of news media and talk show hosts to carry on from home and we were okay with cell phone quality video and their children’s homemade graphics. Why? Because they had something important to say and they said it creatively. Whether it was graphics made by Jimmy Fallon’s kids or Sesame Street’s ability to do a Zoom call with Elmo and friends for a Playdate, we had empathy for our shared situation. Because we were adapting too. MAYBE SOME OTHER EXAMPLES HERE.
Data to Inform Your Decisions
There are three key points to help inform your decisions on your posting schedule and content.
Engagement is defined differently by each network. And we spend a lot of time analyzing engagement level with our clients for their reporting. You need to look at if the content has been seen or content views or reach. Then you need to review if people have done something about it. Did they click on it, comment on it, like it or share it? Write all these down on a piece of paper. Now ask these questions:
- Is anyone at all engaging with your content?
- Is it higher or lower than the great “before?”
- Compare the same numbers with a similar piece of content from last year. What do you see?
The number of incoming comments can be very enlightening when waking up your social media channels. We’ve seen it take a long time for people to come back and chat, but for other brands, the social audience is there and waiting and so happy to see you. Here are the questions to ask:
- How many comments do you have on this piece of content? Also, look at the shares and count them IF they added a covering comment above your post.
- Compare the total number to a similar piece of content from before. Is it higher or lower?
Sentiment is often defined as the degree of positivity or negativity toward a piece of content or a brand. It is a controversial metric, but it’s useful when you’re testing a new schedule. Look at the comments on your content test piece and rank them as positive, negative, or neutral. Likewise for the reactions on Facebook to see how many likes and loves versus sad and angry reactions. Write all these down on a piece of paper. Ask these questions:
- What is the ratio of positive, negative and neutral on your sheet?
- Compare the same numbers with a similar piece of content from last year. What do you see?
- If it is predominantly negative, dig deeper for the cause. Is it the content type or is it the tone? Is it the timing? If it’s predominantly positive, try another similar piece of content and follow the same process.
By taking the time to test your content and then evaluating the engagement level, incoming comments and sentiments, you are using smart evaluation skills and making data-driven decisions on how to proceed with your social media channels and future scheduling.
Is there anything we haven’t covered in this series which could help you get ready to relaunch your business? We’d love to hear from you.
For many of us, we are at four plus weeks staying at home. It’s given us a lot of time to think, or maybe too much time to think. If you’re holding on to the old notions of how your social channels worked prior to a worldwide crisis, it might be time to start thinking of how it will change your social strategy in the future.
It’s certain you will see changes in your audience as this crisis lingers. Even more so as we slowly begin to re-open business channels. But how do you know? What should you be looking for?
It depends on how you – or your channels — acted during the global health crisis, which I’ve already addressed in part 2 of the guide.
If you were serving the community in some way during the nation’s shutdown, you have quite possibly won new fans, ones who are already developing loyalty and pride in what you did.
If you went dark during the uncertainty, you are exactly where you were before the shutdown, or may have lost fans.
If your communication was tentative or marketing heavy or shared the wrong message, you may have lost parts of your audience and will essentially, be starting over with a smaller group.
Assuming your audience mix will be new, your message, approach and channel preference needs to change with it. Some people left you; some people joined you.
Start thinking about your new audience.
Messages: your tone and type of message will need to change when your demographic changes. Your audience may be younger or older, more urban or rural, so look at your breakout and adjust.
Approach: the pace of your messaging should be dictated by audience need. What do they want know? Look at the demographics from your tools and compare it to last year to see what is different.
Channel preference: Not all your channels changed equally. Maybe Facebook is up and Instagram is down. Or Twitter is stagnant but Pinterest has grown. While you’re looking at your demographic changes, look at each individual channel to see what’s different from before.
Taking the time to get to know your new audience is key to your future social media success.
Next time: Is it time to wake up your social channels?
In case you missed it:
Part 1 in our series: What Should I Be Doing On My Social Channels?
Here’s a refresher: Not Sure Who Your Audience is? It’s Right Under Your Nose
Part 2 in a Series
No one ever expects the kind of crisis that is pervasive to every community and industry like this health care epidemic is right now. So if you’re struggling with how to cope, you are not alone. A lot of organizations are using their social media channels as their first, or maybe their only, method of communication right now.
If you are pursuing a schedule on your social channels during this crisis, MAKE IT COUNT.
Say Less, Share More
Stop promoting yourself and start helping your community. What can you do to be part of the solution? Here are some examples you may have seen in your community.
Restaurants who cannot fully operate have moved to online ordering, contactless delivery and even “make at home” meal kits with key add-ons, like eggs and toilet paper.
Arts organizations are sharing live concerts, behind the scenes tours and developing curriculum to be consumed from home.
Sports teams, who were among the first to take action, have propped up their service workers with pay checks; many sports celebrities are doing public service announcements and other work to help their communities.
Nonprofits have pursued a variety of options – some are fundraising to assist in the health care space or keep vital services going while others are being creative to fulfill new challenges.
Large scale manufacturers have rapidly re-tooled their plants to make key goods and services available to frontline health care workers. Smaller cottage industries have redirected machinery to sew masks and create face shields, which are in severe shortage.
Someone in your online community is doing these things. Instead of talking about yourself, talk about them. And what they’re doing to help us get through this crisis. Because sharing their work can help them.
Say Less, Do More
Be a link in the chain of helpers around the world. Everyone can do their part. Can your organization support one of these community helpers?
If you’ve already shared good works happening in your community on your social channels, what else can you do?
Can you match these organizations with the resources they need to continue?
Can you donate money or help them raise money for what they are doing?
That is what real community is about. This is what the social networks were built to do. Connect each other and help each other. Forget selling, and start helping.
We’d love to hear your creative ideas for helping your community.
Next time: Will Your Get Your Audience Back?
To read more about social strategy from Step In Communication, check out our social strategy posts.
Part 1 in a Series
As the public health crisis of 2020 began to unfold, many communicators struggled with how to manage communications in an ever-changing environment. By the time you had something drafted and in the approval pipeline, the recommendations or guidelines changed.
It’s really hard to pivot so quickly. And in case you were wondering, crisis communications is not usually that fluid. Even skilled crisis communicators have been challenged to stay on top of a virus which we seem to know nothing about.
Your social channels might be idle already, so this piece might help you reinforce why to your leadership.
But if you’re struggling with how to remind your audiences that you’re still alive, here are some suggestions and ideas to make that happen.
At this point, you should be evaluating three things:
Should I be posting at all?
Do we have something helpful to add?
Do we need help right now?
Are You Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?
This is a tough question to answer. If you’re a school district, health care system, public information office of a local or state government, then you are no doubt churning out information, resources and links at a more rapid rate than ever before. As well, there are numerous nonprofits who have vital services that need to continue. Recommendation: you should be posting, frequently, humbly and honestly.
But if you’re not, what are you doing? What should you talk about?
If you’re a local-based brand, you can point people to those local resources and reiterate the current “stay at home” guidelines. You can also express a degree of emotion at how much you miss “seeing” your audience, especially if you’re a business that is closed or altered because of the guidelines.
But before you do that, ask yourself another question.
Will your customer cringe if they hear from you now?
It’s really easy to get your messaging wrong right now. Like everyone else, I’ve seen countless businesses that are using the public health scare as a value proposition. This is risky, especially for high ticket consumer goods and services. Many consumers are limiting their spending to draw out their paychecks or manage savings amid uncertain income. Some have already lost their income, so tread carefully on any overt marketing messages.
When Communicating is the Right Thing
Depending on your industry and brand, it might be the right thing to continue communicating with your audiences. Examine what you were doing before and compare that to today’s environment. That comparison should help you decide.
If you can be helpful and offer something of value to your audience while they are staying home, what is that? We’ve already seen numerous museums and zoos doing virtual tours with surprising elements that would certainly keep people entertained. We’ve also seen entertainers of all types doing mini concerts, musical challenges, puzzles and amazing creative content to keep us distracted. Some of those creative challenges have also raised money for causes too.
If you can find a creative way to connect with your audience, you may find a receptive audience. Recommendation: always check your tone before posting. Your audience’s needs and capacity to absorb information is changing so rapidly that what might seem humble and service-oriented one day could be considered tone deaf the next.
Beware of Overscheduling
This is not business as usual, so set aside the usual pace and pulse of your channels. Create mental space and distance around your channels, by looking critically at your schedule and determining what people really want to see right now. Recommendation: use a thick red Sharpie marker (virtual or real!) to edit your schedule, providing your audience with quality content.
Later This Week: What Can You Do when your Social Schedule Is Altered by a Global Crisis?
Communicators are struggling to keep up the pace of a crisis that seems never ending. Here are 5 ways to help you go the distance during this public health crisis.
Communicators need advisors too. Find a colleague in another industry or state to Share Ideas and Test Messages
This is NOT your daily press briefing. Do daily “mental health” check-Ins with your internal and external teams and your fellow communicators
Distance Yourself from Extraneous Noise and bad information and focus on trusted outlets and sources.
Take a Break
Give you and your spokesperson and your team small but frequent breaks and listen to or participate in something that is unrelated to the crisis.
Course Corrections Prevent Whiplash
Taking small steps and little course corrections every day can prevent the exhaustion of major changes.
Download this Infographic and Save it to your computer or SHARE it with a colleague for your future gut checks!
For more crisis resources, check out more helpful posts here: bit.ly/crisispro
New to working from home? We’re not! Our team is virtual and geographically dispersed across three time zones! And we have spouses, kids and fur babies in the mix too! Earlier this week, we shared our top tips on Working from Home on our Facebook page . We got a lot of positive feedback on them, so we have combined them here into a brief bulleted list. Questions? Ask away and we’ll do our best to help.
Fran Stephenson, Texas
10 years in a Home Office
- Use the time chunking method
- Minimize distractions like answering the door, picking up mail, etc.
- Be aware of how much you are sitting and change position/location frequently
- Don’t forget to eat lunch.
Jennifer Hatton, Colorado
9 Years in a Home Office
- Prep family lunches and snacks the night before
- Use an app like boomerang for reminders
- Be realistic about “to do” lists
- Use a planner for “All the Things”
- Set time blocks for working and schedule things for my kids.
- Be flexible to change up kids activities as needed
- Your pets will tell you when it’s time to take breaks!
- Set up a place to work, even if it’s small. Make it pretty!
Brittany Perry, Texas
5 Years in a Home Office
- Shower and get dressed every morning, even if you’re not going anywhere
- Make your work station personal – candles and an awesome playlist are my faves.
- Take breaks and spend intentional time with your family.
- Family communication is important too. Check in with everyone.
Claire Larson, Maine
6 Years in a Home Office
- Doors are your friends. Everyone needs some space.
- If you can, get your kids outside in the yard or driveway, in a space where you can still see them. Set rules for when yard time is up.
- Be creative with phone meeting locations – I’ve used the shower and a closet in a pinch.
- Use an online calendar to help structure your day and schedule your tasks into time blocks.
- Give yourself a start and end time to your work – you now live in your office and have to create boundaries for yourself (and others)
Most Valuable Takeaways
- A space with a door, but improvising works too
- Routines but with flexibility
- Organize, organize, organize
Our virtual team is amazingly productive and so flexible. We cover for each other when someone has a sick child, a family emergency or just needs down time. When your team is this fabulous, it’s easy to take them for granted. I try to find unique ways to connect with these three valuable women. We’ve sent care packages with themes like “it’s time for Fiesta” and “Summer Survival Kits” and check in via text and call. Memes keep us laughing too.
Are these coworkers amazing or what?
Here’s a checklist for crisis communicators to assist them in being truthful, succinct, accurate and understandable as they gear up for prolonged crisis communications in anticipating the spread of Covid-19.
Lead with the Headline News
- Start with the items that will reassure and calm the general public. The first broadly communicated information from the CDC unfortunately led with the possibility of widespread closures and then, midway through their communications, stated that the risk to the general public was still low.
- Say it and say it again!
- Many news outlets are live-streaming these events and people come and go throughout the webcast and can miss the important news. If possible, have someone from your team re-stating the key message on the live feed, so they appear as your audience appears.
Create an Information Hub
- It shouldn’t be too hard to create an online information hub. Update as often as possible. In short form communications, always link to the hub for the full story.
- Make the hub easy to read and visual.
Point to Authority Sources
- Who is leading or from whom are you getting instructions? Point to the local, regional or statewide authority. Audiences often believe trusted officials at the local level as they are known faces.
- Here’s one local hub, but it hasn’t been updated for two weeks:
- Here’s the CDC hub with a date stamp right under the headline:
Check All Outgoing Communications
- It may seem like a carnival game of Whac-A-Mole, but as communicators we have to try to correct the most egregious misinformation when it is on our owned or social media sites. You can’t be everywhere, but you can enhance monitoring on your own properties in a professional manner and move people to your information hub.
- Scrutinize your communication pieces more thoroughly – read everything out loud to eliminate jargon and tongue twisters.
- Date and time stamp everything so the newest info is first.
- Prepare to keep repeating your key messages or latest information
- Assign someone to screen all incoming communication
- Take a deep breath.
- Clear your head and clear your desk.
- Wash your hands. You’ll be at this for awhile.
What would you add to this checklist? Drop a comment below to help everyone with their latest crisis challenges. Or share a resource that will help others with better communication.
***Updated with new resources on March 5, 2020***
From Doug Levy, author of Communications Golden Hour, a tip sheet for prolonged crisis:
From Seth Godin, some interesting thoughts on the spread of viruses in general. Good read to center your thinking:
An example of an organization being proactive, without being scary or alarmist:
Associated Press communications guidelines:
Resources about COVID-19
A continuously updated document on meeting cancellations:
A Seattle high school student has build a real time website tracking the virus here: https://ncov2019.live/data
I recently assisted two small business owners with crisis response. While I’m still processing everything that happened for one of them, we could actually see it coming and were able to do several things on social media to prepare for critics bombarding their Facebook page (which they did for 7 straight days!)
This owner posted a response to a tragedy that happened at her place of business. We all thought this would give a bit of closure to everyone involved. Nope.
Within the hour, a very long, inflamed and inaccurate post was shared by someone who was a third party to the tragedy. We starting watching the page very closely. Soon, the mob appeared and started a cycle of heated words, accusations and (wait for it) more inaccurate information.
While the response was complicated and involved, here are the four things we did to mitigate the public outcry.
- Enhanced monitoring on the channel for 48 hours and aggressively remove anything that was clearly profane, spam or plagiarized.
- Used the “three strikes” rule. Any person who posts the same message three times on the page, is banned. This is a common protest tactic and is meant to spike the Facebook algorithm.
- Turned off the Reviews function because they cannot be removed and in crisis, people leaving a rating have rarely used the business. They are merely expressing their discontent.
- Changed the page settings to moderated. So no one could make a post to the wall, only comment on existing posts.
So how can this help you during your next crisis? Now is a great time to check your settings and make sure you know how to turn on and off all these features if and when you need them.
Twitter lists should be an important part of your 2020 marketing strategy.
What is a Twitter List?
A Twitter list is a curated list of Twitter handles within Twitter that allows you to view the tweets of those within that list only. You can create your own lists or subscribe to one created by someone else.
Public vs. Private Lists
Public lists are just that – public! They are searchable and those you include on the list will receive a notice they have been added. Public lists can be followed, and you can share the URL as a resource for others.
Private lists cannot be seen by anyone but you. The accounts included within the list will not receive a notice they have been added to your list and if someone has the list URL they will not still not be able to view it.
Follow vs. Add
You can add Twitter accounts to your list that you follow already, but you do not have to be following an account to add it to your list. This is a great way to keep your follower list down but still be able to keep up with all the accounts that interest you.
For more specifics on how to create, add, edit Twitter lists.
Ways to Utilize Twitter Lists
There are a variety of ways you can utilize Twitter lists and I find they are all helpful to the diverse group of clients we work with.
Twitter lists are a great way to monitor trends in your industry, media, a crisis and more. I always recommend a local media list (or multiple if you have locations or interests in different cities), national media list if you work nationwide, supporters/partners/sponsors and thought
leaders in your industry.
Scanning those lists weekly will help you catch up on what is going on or in the case of a crisis you have one place on Twitter to monitor sentiment.
This is one is my favorite. Creating lists takes time, but if you put in the effort to build great lists it will be a big time saver going forward. Creating lists for the different topics or industries you are interested in or focused on will allow you to scan and find great content to read and share across your social channels. I will share more ideas on different types of helpful lists to have in addition to the media lists mentioned above, below in the examples.
If you have created a list that you think would be helpful to others – share! While you can follow and subscribe to other people’s lists it is always great to create lists that others will follow as well. It helps to show your expertise as an expert and/or industry leader as well.
Examples of Twitter Lists
Medical Client – created lists of all locations, local partners, national health organizations
Sports Client – created lists of local teams both professional and amateur, national sports and coaching organizations, US professional and Olympic sports (during an Olympic year), local hotels and sports facilities
Final Thoughts on Twitter Lists
Twitter lists take time to build, so go slow and don’t try to do it all in a day. In my experience the time commitment is worth it!
How do you plan to use Twitter Lists for your business in 2020?
It’s nearly the end of the year and many organizations are taking stock of how they did this year and making plans for next year. If you’re a social media manager for an organization, you should be doing the same. But what questions should you ask? What should you look at to gain insight into what’s working and what’s not working?
Social networks make changes all the time, so you need to continually look at your channels, evaluate results and make changes to stay ahead of the game.
Here are 10 questions you should be asking as you evaluate 2019 and begin to prepare for next year.
- How is my engagement on Facebook? Is it better or worse than it was at the beginning of the year? Should I trim the output on this channel?
- How are my posts doing on Instagram? Are they getting seen in the feed and getting lots of comments and likes? Am I overposting on this channel?>
- How are my Instagram stories doing? Are they getting seen more frequently or less frequently than my Instagram feed posts?
- How am I doing on Twitter? Can I see a difference now on RTs and likes compared to where I started earlier this year?
- Is LinkedIn a viable channel for my organization? How is it different? Did my content stick this year and what kinds of views, likes and comments did I get on my posts?
- If you’re on Pinterest, what is the standout pin of the year? Which boards are getting more traction? Can you see improvement over time?
- What types of content are the best performing content on each channel? Why?
- Are all my channels performing to set objectives? If not, what changes are indicated for next year?
- Should I launch a new channel or a new group in the coming year?
- How will I report on these successes and challenges? What metrics will help me explain success to my leadership?
Answering these ten questions will help you start evaluating your social channel performance this year. What other questions are you asking about your social media ecosystem this year?