Thursday, August 02, 2012

What's your social media plan B? Contingency plans communicators need

Everyone loves getting an A, but it's that plan B that will save you in tight circumstances. With the advent of social media, communicators can get caught if they haven't planned ahead for today's contingencies.

When I'm advising clients on social media strategies, it's the plans B that often help make the decision--for example, if you can only handle one person staffing one channel, and either the channel or person are down with no backup, you may want to rethink your plans. Have you thought through these situations where a social media plan B will stand you in good stead?
  1. Cross-training for ordinary staff absences: Everyone has sick days, surgery and recovery, family leave, and other routine absences. Is the rest of your team ready to step in for each person on the team? Do multiple players have access to the accounts, dashboards and other tools--and the experience to use them? Facebook now allows for multiple page admins with different roles, so make sure each role is backed up in this way.
  2. High-traffic post responses: Before you get overwhelmed by an unexpected major response to one of your posts, have you coordinated with your IT team and your own team about how you'll stop, drop and roll with a tsunami of comments or traffic? That means everything from keeping your site functional to how you'll respond, content-wise. Get some lessons by reading about how SCOTUS blog survived the announcement of the Supreme Court health care law decision by preparing for an overwhelming interest in the news on its site. There's more from the SCOTUS blog's publisher on what happened that day, including how the Court itself bet solely on its website, which couldn't stand the load at the most critical moment. It's one of many factors that contributed to some news organizations reporting the news incorrectly that day. Some smart tactics here to share and discuss with your IT folks. Don't forget to point out the impact on your end of the business.
  3. Pulling automated posts in a crisis: Your social media plan needs its own crisis plan: 6 lessons from the #hopkinsshooting offers a case study in getting caught by surprise, with lesson one being a plan to stop any auto-posts, which may look wildly out of context in a crisis. Social Media Explorer agrees, noting that it took some companies two days after the September 11 attacks to remove their Times Square ads or replace them with something more appropriate....and that two days in social media is an eternity.
  4. The channel is down: Whether it's the Twitter fail whale or something more dire, the channel on which you most depend may go down for reasons out of your control, as Twitter itself did recently for the better part of a business day. Where will your posts go then? How will you communicate with your users if that's your primary channel? Where's your "meetup" place for followers--do they know where to go to find you in an emergency outage?
  5. Your account is hacked: Aside from new security controls, what do you need to do to refute any harmful content posted under your brand? How are your users and followers reacting? What channel can you offer them as a secure posting place?
  6. Your message is hijacked or prompts a protest: McDonald's Twitter hashtag #McDStories quickly got overtaken by Twitter users who posted negative experiences. In this case, the company stopped promoting the hashtag within a couple of hours, replacing it with another that was already planned as a backup. It's a good reminder that your backups may need to be content backups as well as technical ones. If that sounds obvious, a July 2012 report notes that "of companies that have been subject to social media criticism however strong (ranging from a single complaint to a full-scale campaign), fully 72% rated their preparedness as average or below, with 20% being completely unprepared." 
What contingency plans do you have in place? Please add to this list, in the comments.

Registration is now open for the next Be an Expert on Working with Experts, for communicators and related professionals who work with subject-matter experts, policy analysts, scientists and engineers. The workshop is August 23 in Washington, DC, or I can bring it to your workplace. Get an early registration discount if you sign up by August 3. Details at the link.

No comments: