Published on July 9th, 2012 | by Jill Bastian2
How Colorado Businesses Used Social Media During the Fires
Colorado suffered some catastrophic fires, which put a lot of people and businesses in danger. Currently, the fires haven’t been put out, but hopefully when this post goes live, they will be. I’m from Colorado, Colorado Springs in fact, and though I now live in California, I’ve lived most of my life in Colorado and still have lots of family and friends there. During this crisis, I found myself turning to social media to find out the latest on the fires, and to stay updated with my friends. Facebook has been a lifesaver, and though it only helped ease my concern a little, at least I knew everyone was safe. But then I started wondering about businesses that I had frequented in Colorado, and how they were doing. I found that they too, had taken to social media to keep their customers current on what was going on. In consideration of this horrible firestorm, here are some social media tips that you and your business can implement when emergencies happen:
Post an update as soon as possible – This may seem obvious, but information spreads quickly these days. As soon as possible, post what’s happening in your area, and let your followers know what they can expect from your business over the next few days. Is your business open? Will you have different hours? Is anything in danger or are you all okay? The more context and information you can provide, the better.
In this example, the Flying W Ranch let their followers know that they had to evacuate, but saved what they could.
Later, they posted that the phones were down, but they could still be reached through their Facebook page.
Continue to keep your followers updated – Once you’ve alerted people to what’s happening, keep them in the loop. If your phones are down or the electricity is out, let customers know so they don’t worry or wonder what is happening. This will also allow you to manage expectations for any expected shipments or service calls. Chefs Catalog did this and received some great responses and encouragement from their customers:
Share helpful third-party information – One of the most positive things about social networks like Facebook and/or Twitter, is that you’re connected to many people. If you have helpful information that will make a trying time easier for your family, friends, customers or community, share it! Sharing valuable information can provide help quickly to someone who may need it. One of my favorite resources for the fires was a news organization in Colorado Springs. They shared everything they could, newsworthy or otherwise on social media including: recent evacuations, upcoming press conferences, places taking in evacuees, even what the firefighters needed donated.
And you don’t have to run a news channel to share. Due to edgerank, your posts may show up at the top of your followers feeds, so sharing information can give the timely helping hand someone needs.
Keep people in the loop, even when the worst happens – Sometimes, no matter how hard people try, there is a possibility that you may lose your business due to something like a fire, flood or earthquake. As heartbreaking as it for the business owner, customers also feel the loss. Letting them know what happened, and what your plans are for the future, will help them, and you. The Flying W Ranch unfortunately burned down from the fires in Colorado Springs, but they gracefully and quickly let people know what happened and that they planned to rebuild. Their post was heartfelt and personal, and even included the name of the person who was keeping everyone updated. The outpouring of support has been amazing, and the post received nearly 7,000 likes, 2,000 shares and just over 1,100 comments, mine included. Their Facebook followers increased by 14,000 in a week and are still growing.
Flying W Ranch’s social media presence has also continued to grow because they’ve been consistently sharing pictures, some from the past, some from the fire aftermath – And, all have hopeful and positive comments.
Say thank you – Once the crisis has passed, let your customers know and thank them. You definitely want them to come back and patronize your business again. If there’s going to be a rebuilding time, let customers know, or, if you’re behind with orders or have delays, let them know that too. Manage expectations and show gratitude.
Don’t forget family and friends – One of the most helpful realizations about social media, is that if you’re posting updates, you must be in a safe place. This can ease the mind of anyone who knows you personally. Plus, your family and friends can also share your posts, and get the word out about what’s happening with you and your business.
Having a plan before the unthinkable happens will help you and your business be prepared in a stressful and chaotic time. Plus, keeping your customers updated can help keep your business going strong after the crisis has passed. Colorado Springs is still recovering from the fires, but with the help of local organizations and social media, the community has pulled together to help and support everyone who needs it.
© 2012 – 2013, Jill Bastian. All rights reserved.