Judging authenticity during a #smcrisis

According to a recent article on bbc.co.uk, during a crisis, the believability of a tweet is linked to how authentic and spontaneous it appears.

Spontaneous tweets – ones that people post in the moment, when events are unfolding around them – tend to be sweary, lack appropriate grammar or correct spelling, or feature all three.

These tweets are more likely to be authentic. When caught up in events, people tweet their genuine emotional reactions to what’s happening around them, or to them. Whether it’s their fury at having to take another day off work waiting for a delivery that never arrives, or their shock at seeing a fire at the end of their street, people are going to react instinctively at first.

According to the BBC, journalists use the lack of exclamation marks and eye catching openers like BREAKING NEWS to determine how real a tweet is likely to be – if it’s really from an eye-witness, or just someone chasing internet fame. Tweets from people on the scene, or being affected by the events, are less likely to be hyperbolic.

What does this mean for organisations going through a crisis?

Just as an organisation’s social media team experiences the panic of a crisis breaking on social media, so do the people on the other end. At times of crisis, those affected want to:

  • Express their frustration.
  • Share their opinion.
  • Get someone responsible to take action.
  • Be reassured that the person (or organisation) on the other end of the exchange knows what they’re doing.

Good, open, internal communication channels, regularly reviewed social media crisis plans and regular crisis training are all vital components of the organisations response to crisis situations. Front line staff need to be confident in their own ability to handle issues. They need to know that they aren’t parroting the corporate line, and that action will be taken where necessary to fix whatever issues there are.

While members of the public may be excused for a panicked response and a lack of manners in the moment, those responding need to be compassionate and willing to help. Organisations that go the other way, and become hostile and defensive on social media, not only make the initial crisis worse, but create a negative impression in people’s minds that often lasts much longer than the crisis itself.

Gemma is Polpeo’s Content Specialist. She develops the crisis storylines and writes social content for Polpeo. She is the principal voice of Polpeo on Twitter, and blogs on PR Examples and carrotcomms.co.uk/blog.

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