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Leading Through Change

Twitter Shares How Brands Succeed With Social Media in a Crisis

When the world is in turmoil, striking the right tone is key – you don't want to sound stuffy or uncaring – but a step too far in the other direction can come off as insensitive. Here is how to connect now from a Twitter expert.

Gina Ballenger is Director of Twitter Next, a division of Twitter that provides campaign and content strategy services to advertisers. She partners with brands and creative agencies to help them elevate their marketing on Twitter, build creative ideas that earn attention, and construct feed-first content.

On social media, anyone can see what’s happening in the world, anytime, and join global conversations on any topic. And in times of crisis, people feel the need to connect more than ever. Now, over a month into the COVID-19 crisis, brands across the world are getting more involved in these important conversations. But it can be tough to know how to engage. We’ve seen many brands do it right. Here are five best practices we’ve learned so far:

1. Find your voice in the context of what’s happening

Some brands are straightforward and professional on social media. Others are irreverent and playfully sarcastic. Whatever your brand voice may be, it’s important to reevaluate your tone during times of crisis.

When the world is in turmoil, striking the right tone is key — you don’t want to sound stuffy or uncaring — but a step too far in the other direction can come off as insensitive. Consider your audience, the cultural moment, and your place in it. Then, adapt your brand’s voice and tone to fit the context. Uber, Verizon, and UPS are three brands that are doing this well.

Empathy and humanity are critical when communicating on social media during uncertain times. Speak in ways that are considerate of the different situations people could face.

2. Provide value to your audience

Don’t lose sight of your brand’s essential purpose, even as you adapt your voice to different situations. Many of your followers may look to you for relief from the news they’ve been refreshing for weeks now. Twitter studies show people actually want to hear from brands while we all navigate these tough times. We found:

  • 64% of respondents said brands should continue advertising products as normal
  • 52% agreed that seeing/hearing ads gives them a sense of normality
  • 77% agreed they feel more positively about brands making an effort to support society at the moment
  • only 7% of respondents said brands should continue using their normal brand tone of voice

Identify the core value you provide to followers and keep communicating that. Your brand’s core value on social media may not even be your product — instead, it might be informational updates or pure entertainment.

A global crisis is not a marketing opportunity, but brands don’t need to stop communicating. As long as you present content in ways that are sensitive to the current moment and help your followers in some way, marketing is not off-limits.

3. Take your social strategy day-by-day

At the beginning of a crisis, it’s common for brands to develop a new strategy and stick to it. But as a crisis goes on, major changes can occur day-by-day, as we’ve seen with the coronavirus.

It’s essential for your brand to continue adapting messaging as the crisis evolves. Content about social distancing and hand sanitizer may have played well in the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they may not come across as well six weeks later.

Now is not the time for a set-in-stone editorial calendar. You never know what might happen tomorrow, so take your social strategy day-by-day.

4. Use search and polls to listen to your community

To find out what your community needs, just listen. It’s vital for you to know what your followers are talking about and how conversations about your brand evolve.

On Twitter, you can use the search bar to look up people, hashtags, and keywords — or use the Explore tab to see live updates tailored to your favorite topics. To keep up with key followers and topics, create lists of accounts and keywords and track conversations. You can also level up your social listening with tools like Tweetdeck.

To go beyond guesswork, engage your audience directly by Tweeting questions and polls. Listening is a circular process and a never-ending commitment. Keep adapting as you learn more from your audience.

5. Consult external partners

Too much groupthink can be dangerous, especially in times of uncertainty. When everyone is working from the same perspective, potential missteps are often overlooked. That’s why it’s important to engage external partners when strategizing for social media during a crisis.

Whether you rope in an agency partner or run your Tweets by family and friends, outside perspectives can raise a red flag when you’re not quite hitting the mark. Taking a few minutes to get outside the usual echo chamber can help you come up with clever new messaging that will resonate with followers.

Even in times of crisis, don’t shy away from voicing your brand’s perspective. We all deserve to share our thoughts — brands included. Your posts might brighten someone’s day, offer much-needed well-wishes, or help publicize vital information in trying times. As long as content is authentic to your brand, appropriate for your audience, and valuable to the world-at-large, there’s no need to stop sharing.

Social Studio can help you analyze conversations from nearly any source to see what your industry and fans are saying.

To get more tips on navigating through COVID-19, check out our Leading Through Change series, where you’ll find thought leadership, tips, and resources to help business leaders manage through crisis.

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