Social media has changed the face of our world, from the way we communicate to the way we market, and even the way we respond to disasters. The world has seen its fair share of disasters in recent years, from natural disasters like hurricanes and floods to tragic events that affect whole cities and even countries.

Social media has made a huge difference in the way both individuals and businesses respond to disasters. People use social media to check on friends and loved ones, find shelter and supplies, share and retrieve emergency information updates, and so much more.

Social media can inform and help during a crisis, but it can also detract from emergency and disaster situations, especially when it comes to managing your business accounts. While there are no fixed rules for social media posting during a crisis, the following tips should help your business respectfully and effectively respond to disasters.

Have a plan

You don’t want to be caught off guard when disaster strikes. Your team needs to develop a strategy for responding to disasters of all kinds, whether they are expected like a hurricane or come by surprise. Your response should depend on a number of factors.

When a crisis occurs, consider the impact it has on your business, brand, and location, as well as the effect it will have on your employees and customers. Scenarios that directly affect your area, your client base, and your employees are scenarios that you should certainly address. The capacity in which you respond to the crisis, however, depends on how applicable or impactful the crisis is to your business or operation.

Work with your team to come up with a strategy that best works for your business and brand, helping you determine when to address and inform versus when to go dark in the event of a disaster.

Check your scheduled content

As soon as you hear of a crisis, whether that is in advance of or following the event, review your scheduled social content. Remove any posts that could come off as insensitive to those affected by the disaster.

Never use a tragedy to promote your own business. Content such as promotions or contests will come off as insensitive and selfish, and you could face some serious backlash from followers. You can reschedule those posts to run at another time.

Post your status

If a natural disaster or even directly affects your area and therefore your business, post the status of your business to inform clients and employees. Let customers know if and when you will be closing, if you have lost power, and provide other pertinent information.

When the chaos surrounding the crisis has died down, give your customers an update on your status, informing them when you will be reopening, etc.

Provide helpful updates

This tip also applies to crises that directly impact your business’ area or location. Social media is a great tool to help those in your area by informing and spreading awareness about disaster developments and updates.

Social media may be someone’s only source of information during an emergency. Sharing information regarding evacuation routes, road closures, power outages, and more can make a huge difference to those impacted by a crisis.

Go dark, or “dim the lights.”

Every emergency situation or crisis is different, and if you are ever unsure how to respond, the best social media practice is to go dark. Make sure scheduled posts are removed or rescheduled, and then simply stay quiet about the event.

Alternatively, you can “dim the lights” on your social media content. Simply share your condolences to those impacted by the crisis, and then go dark on the subject.

When determining when to return to the regularly scheduled content, look to larger brands and follow their lead.

There is no one size fits all formula when it comes to managing your business’ social media during a disaster situation. But by following the tips above and by remaining respectful and genuine in your responses, your business can develop an appropriate disaster response strategy.

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