One of the trends that I’ve seen over the last 5 years since making the jump to social media is that the actual job responsibilities are being distributed across entire teams versus having a single individual do those tasks. Although teams of social media professionals were common at points the distribution is now creeping it’s way into regular marketing, public relations and communications roles. This is essential in the maturation of any business tool. Sixty years ago, it was unheard of for an executive to use a typewriter to complete their work. Now I haven’t met a CEO or business unit leader who doesn’t have their hands tied to a physical or digital keyboard more than they’d like to admit.

As social media grows up and more and more people are taking part (thanks to great tools like that which Marcus Nelson and his team over at Addvocate have created) this opens many different opportunities and problems when a crisis eventually happens.  Employees are some of the greatest assets to disseminating information broadly during a crisis event and the more of them that are comfortable using the tools, the more likely the company message will be seen by those who need to see it and will benefit by doing so.  That is a massive upside for having more and more employees comfortable with and engaging with the online portion of the brand.

However, it also makes it substantially harder to be able to know who is responsible for handling the social media side of a crisis event when it occurs. Especially when the person leading the department that has a responsibility for social media is not someone who performs the work day to day on those platforms.  I have been and remain a huge proponent of having the person who is leading the charge on your company’s social media day to day to be a part of the crisis management team and there’s two key reasons for this: speed and accuracy.

If the person actually doing the tweeting and Facebook posts and blogging isn’t in the room, they can’t capture the tone and real message that is being conveyed inside and therefore can’t provide a transparent look into what is currently happening to resolve the crisis. Going further, if that person isn’t in the room you begin a process that is very similar to the children’s game “telephone.” Distortions, misunderstandings and as importantly in a business setting legal ramifications can happen incredibly quickly.

To end this week’s post, I am going to give you a series of questions to ask your organization (you can ask them to whomever is running the social media efforts or you can pose them hypothetically to yourself) about how social media in a crisis will work:

– Who is going to be the primary point of contact for social media?

– Who will be monitoring the activity of the community?

– What can members of the day-to-day social media team say about the crisis while it is happening? Are they tweeting/posting from their personal accounts?

– What role will the legal department play in the social media personnel’s ability to disseminate information about what has happened that caused this issue, what is happening to resolve it and how to tell the various stakeholders that business is back to usual?

– What platforms will receive preferential treatment? Which will be actively ignored until after the crisis subsides?  (I strongly recommend making it 2-3: Twitter, Facebook and a somewhere like a website where the business can post long form content and drive traffic it.)