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Most crisis communications plans now include social media to provide timely updates to the press and others affected by the crisis. However, companies should follow some basic social media guidelines to ensure they don’t cause harm to their brand’s reputation during an emergency.

Use social media to update journalists, as well as your followers

Twitter’s organic post reach is approximately 2 percent of the page’s followers. This means your updates might not reach your followers directly. But during a crisis, journalists will turn to your social media for updates and share that information with their followers.

Social media is the primary way stakeholders and those affected by the crisis will publicly reach out or discuss the situation

It would help if you listened as much as you shared on social media during an emergency. It’s critical to create a monitoring and response system so that you are prepared to respond to hundreds or even thousands of discussions on and off your social channels when a problem occurs. Setting up Google Alerts for your business or crisis-related vital terms can help you track and react to the spread of information online.

Choosing the appropriate response is far more effective than deleting or censoring user-generated content

Even if a social media user posts something illegitimate or false about the crisis at hand, it can damage your reputation if you eliminate it. If you’re worried about a social media user’s negative or misinformed comments, respond to them in a personal yet professional manner. Lashing out or ignoring the comment can let it get out of hand, but a polite and timely response can eliminate the problem quickly.

Outline expectations for employee use of social media during a crisis

Chances are, the media will approach high-profile employees through online channels to comment on the event or situation. Or, they may be tempted to post their own opinions about the issue to their friends and followers online. Make it clear to your employees what they should and should not post about the company not to exacerbate the problem.

Don’t try to change your brand image amid a crisis.

You need to be serious and respectful during an emergency and strike the right tone. But it’s important to be true to your company’s brand reputation and communicate with your followers in your typical manner. Don’t be something you’re not. This will facilitate the rebuilding of trust after the crisis is resolved.

More: Social Media Do’s and Don’ts During a Crisis