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  • Writer's pictureYolanda King Stephen

You Shouldn't Wait Until a Crisis to Use Social Media. Here’s Why.

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

A few weeks ago I received an email from a college student, Tiana. Her assignment for the week required her to reach out to a Public Information Officers to inquire if we use social media for business purposes, how we use social media during a crisis, and if we had a social media emergency plan. It reminded me of of the public relations and journalism course assignments I labored through while in college.

Social media was just on the verge of existence and email contact information was not widely accessible. Our days of reaching out was to pick up the phone and call the individual we wanted to contact. Nevertheless, times have changed and a quick email response was in order. I enjoyed sharing the following information with Tiana since I was in the middle of COVID-19 crisis communication planning for my district. Using social media as part of a business communication strategy is more than about posting - even though people outside of the field may believe we spend all day on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram posting pictures, videos, and updates - there is a method to the madness.

Here are four reasons why you shouldn't wait until a crisis to use social media:

1. Social media is a part of the overall communication strategy…which breadcrumbs up to the overall organizational strategy. Social media is here to stay. Yes, it has evolved overtime. Just like any innovative business or education system, you should evolve with it. Social media should be used, not as a one-stop-shop, but as another method in communicating with your audiences. You should include social media messaging in a communication plan, along with advertising, marketing, and public relations. Post messages that share the story of your organization and that help people feel connected to your brand. Which leads me to number two.

2. It builds an audience of social advocates. Building an audience takes time. It isn’t done overnight. If you have not built social goodwill then trying to build it during a crisis will not reach the audience you seek to hear/respond to your messaging. Stay active in the platform. Scheduling out for weeks at a time is passive and can possibly be detrimental to building your audience. They can tell if you are listening. If you only respond when you post, they may feel neglected and head over to your competitor who responds in a timely manner. Scheduling posts and leaving the platform for days at a time does not build social advocates. Responding and being active in the platform does build social advocates.

Actual analytics for our leadership team.

3. It provides useful analytical data that can help in building or adjusting a communication plan. Sometimes, the most thought provoking post or data-driven post receives the least amount of reactions. That’s because it may not resonate with your audience. With any business or school district, there are cyclical items that should be posted like employee highlights and student successes, but what posts really drive your social audience to react, share, like, or comment? Using analytical data can bring insight into what your audience is thinking, what they want to hear, where potential crises may arise, or it can help you adjust a communication plan for the next iteration. On a selfish note, I don’t know any CEO or Superintendent who does not appreciate data driven decisions. Use those analytics to your advantage and show the importance social connectivity plays in driving sales, customer or student retention, and overall goodwill in the community.

4. It’s a great customer service tool. With the onset of COVID-19 and social distancing, if you have used social media as a customer service tool in the past then you are in luck. Using social media platforms to respond to customers bring value in the form of T.R.U.S.T. I understand many communication offices may be one-stop-shops but I always encourage anyone in the field to take a moment out of their week to respond to customer or parent questions in the public domain of social media.

Using the example of COVID-19 and communication within my district, our community quickly turned to posting, sharing, asking questions, and thanking us for providing information in multiple ways. It takes a load off when you see the behavior change with others sharing your information. It almost makes them an extended part of your team.

CAUTION: No matter what, always remember that everything is not meant for social media. Pick and choose wisely. For instance, your employees should not receive crisis information via social media. That should be shared on another platform like face-to-face meetings or through their supervisor. Sharing crisis information with employees first makes them feel valued. It should never come as a surprise via social media.

If you are not having the conversation, they are having it without you. Who wants that?! The next time you have to justify a social media strategy, share some quality examples from competing organizations. And when someone jokingly says all you do is stay on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram all day, you can laugh with them, but also give them some sage advice about building the business - and customer advocates - via social means.

Good Luck!

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