Using Twitter For Crisis Communication
Twitter is becoming an integral part of many company’s crisis communication plans. While Twitter will not prevent an issue from blowing up, it can provide a light in the chaos and stop a small issue spiraling into a big one.
GM used Twitter as a tool to understand and manage the impact of its bankruptcy filing in June 2009. Director of Social Media, Christopher Barger, said the real-time nature of Twitter communication was the single most important aspect of getting their message out.
As with all crisis communication, the key to an effective Twitter crisis response is planning and preparation. If you don't develop your Twitter presence before a crisis, you won’t be able to orchestrate an effective response. That is the first of four stages involved in an effective Twitter crisis response.
Develop your presence on Twitter before a crisis. Become part of the community, respond to questions, build followers and follow others. If you have multiple users managing your Twitter account, make sure they have a consistent voice. The more natural and engaging the tweets, the better the response from your followers will be.
Responses to individual users are difficult during a fast-breaking crisis. Consider having several people on hand to respond to users, just make sure you have the Twitter names and followers in place before the crisis starts.
Plan for every crisis you can think of. Determine the speed with which you’ll release information over Twitter and the type of information you'll send out. Start with an apology. Send it out to Twitter and direct users to a longer version of the story, via shortened URLs.
As the word spreads, let your followers know how you're addressing the crisis and release information as you get it. Remember though, information put out on Twitter from your official account will be taken as true, even if it later turns out to be wrong, so get the facts straight before you release too much.
Remember a couple of important things. First, you only have 140 characters, including any links. To save time in a crisis, you may want to have some tweets pre-written to make best use of the space. Second, remember not to over-tweet. Provide engaging and entertaining information for people to retweet, rather than providing hundreds of tweets to tell the whole story.
The content of your Tweets should be genuine and engaging. Twitter users respond to genuine emotion, so take advantage of that, and make your tweets powerful by writing conversationally and naturally. Don't hide behind corporate jargon and marketing language. Users will see straight through it.
When a crisis breaks, use Twitter to listen to what people are saying about you. Allow your followers to become your allies by providing them with information. Respond to their concerns and give them confidence in your message.
Hashtags are very important. If there are any hashtags related to your company or industry, monitor them for any mention of the crisis. Also make sure you include them in any informational tweets you send out.
Respond quickly to the crisis. During the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, BP waited a week before sending their first tweet. It was so long someone even created the fake @BPGlobalPR, to satirically send out information. Get involved early and respond promptly to concerns. Twitter should be a two-way conversation, so keep that in mind during a crisis.
Twitter can be a friend or an enemy during a crisis. Unchecked, users will spread rumors and misinformation very quickly, but careful tweeting based on solid groundwork means plenty of people will hear your side of the conversation.