University Marketing & Communications

April 14, 2020

Community management in a time of crisis

Jacob Kelly

Listening, responsiveness and empathy are essential when managing communities on social media during times of crisis. Your followers’ pain points can inform you of where your communication and information is lacking, and serves as a powerful tool for leadership.

So how do you effectively manage incoming questions? Anticipating what your audience’s concerns are and will be is essential, as that will help you curate or create content that can be published in tandem with major announcements coming from the University. Read the comments sections, check out forums like r/udub and keep an eye on other online spaces where your audience talks about your brand. You can’t be expected to be aware of everything said about your department at any given time, but casting a wider net than your immediate follower base can help you keep your finger on the pulse.

When first rolling out major announcements and communications, we recommend publishing and pinning any FAQ type posts to your channel (Facebook and Twitter both have this functionality) and closely monitoring the comments section of that post. Oftentimes, we are not able to provide the specific answers that folks are looking for in a time of crisis, but we can help them navigate this large organization and try to put them in touch with someone that might know more than the communications person behind the social media account. If you don’t have concrete information, it’s okay to let someone know that the issue is ongoing and evolving, and that you will provide more information as it becomes available. Just letting your audience know that you’re listening goes a long way.

Be ready to adapt as the conversation and crisis situation changes. Having some handy Photoshop files such as this one that you can drop text into as things evolve can help you be nimbler at publishing branded messaging. Being swift, clear and empathetic in your responses is key to establishing yourself as a calming force in your community, but don’t forget to give yourself breaks too. The internet is vast, and there will always be more to respond to, especially in a time of crisis. Find time for breaks, and don’t be too hard on yourself if someone doesn’t like your answer or you don’t respond to every comment.

And if — and when — you get stumped on how to respond to an issue or delicately craft a message — because we all do — bring in an extra set of eyes and ears. Whether that is someone in your department that is more familiar with your subject matter, or someone like your friendly-neighborhood-community-manager yours truly, having someone to soundboard and talk through how to tackle an emerging and ongoing situation on social media is something to not take for granted.

Good luck! You got this. #TogetherUW