Real-time Is Now a Social Media Crisis Standard

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Social Media Risk Management

The following is a guest post, reprinted by permission, from Melissa Agnes of  Melissa will Co-host a Firestorm Session with Grant Rampy on September 12 on Transparency: Can There Be Too Much?.

Melissa Agnes is a social media crisis manager and consultant. She keeps a daily blog on the subject over at, is co-host of The Crisis Show and the creator of The Social Media Crisis Academy, an online training course aimed at helping small to medium sized businesses and PR professionals develop strategic social media crisis communications plans. You can connect with Melissa on Twitterand Linkedin.

Real-time Is Now – a Social Media Crisis Standard

Between the web tools at your disposal and the new-found expectations of your audience, updating your customers and fans in a crisis is no longer an option. It has become a standard – and a minimum standard at that!

Gone are the days when you had hours to prepare a news release or send your statement over to the press. The reality of today is that not only do you have the tools to publish your own content in real-time, but your audience and the public expect nothing less of you.

The fact of the matter is that if you don’t, someone else will – which will only help in making sure that you lose even more control of the situation, as well as open your organization up to speculation, rumors and panic.

Responding to a crisis in real-time is not an option. It’s a requirement. That said, the following are some guidelines that will help your company or organization meet this mandatory requirement:

If you aren’t already on social media, NOW is the time to set yourself up

In a crisis you won’t have time to waste setting up your social media platforms. That’s something that needs to be done now, before you find yourself faced with a social media crisis.

Build your network

The more you grow your following before a crisis strikes, the more eyes and ears you’ll have listening to your updates when you find yourself faced with a crisis.

(Psst! Plus, the more opportunity you’ll have to leverage the help of your happy and loyal fans, helping you regain control of the situation even quicker.)

Include an initial response-time policy within your social media crisis plan

What is the maximum allotted time your company or organization deems acceptable in a crisis? Is it fifteen minutes? An hour? Two hours? Whatever your response time policy is, your crisis team and staff need to be aware of it if they’re going to meet it during a crisis.

Note: The sooner your response time, the sooner you begin to regain control of the situation.

Release frequent updates
Even if nothing new has been discovered, or if you have nothing new to report, take to the appropriate social media channels and let your audience know. Releasing frequent updates, no matter if you have new news to report or not, will:

  • Keep the public looking to YOU for real-time updates and reports
  • Leave less room for speculation and rumors
  • Allow you to continue to keep the control you’ve regained – regaining a little more with each new update
  • Continue to build and strengthen the relationship you share with your audience (which is always one of your top goals within a social media crisis)

Social media crises happen fast and in real-time. The sooner and more frequently you respond to the crisis, the more people will look to you as a resourceful and credible source of information, and the more you will begin to regain control of the situation.

What have I missed? What would you add to this list in terms of responding in real-time to a crisis? I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments section below.


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