Don’t newsjack your way in to crisis on social media

SEO pundits will tell you that one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site is to blog about trending or highly searched topics. From today’s news headlines to scandal prone celebrities and popular keywords or search terms, if you’ve got a view — Google wants to rank it.

This strategy works out great for those with a clearly defined social media strategy, some creative license and an audience who will either grab their pitchfork and take a cyber stand right there with you or will like, love or retweet your newsjacking genius into the lists of the best social posts of the year.

But just because a topic is trending or has spiked in search, doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea to jump on that social bandwagon.

Here are 7 reasons why newsjacking might not be a good idea:

1. Being the equivalent of a neutral Switzerland on social media is near impossible

In the case of social and societal issues, jumping on the online bandwagon in support, outrage or opposition is going to polarise some of your audience. You should accept from the outset that your audience follows you for a (usually) single pointed value driven reason.

When you deviate from that routine, you can expect to hear about it. It’s important to recognise that you can’t and won’t please everyone.

Politics rarely mixes well with audiences who are otherwise purposeful, disengaged from or fatigued by the machinations of Government.

Be mindful of your own biases creeping into your social media content to prevent audience alienation and outrage.

2. Content desperation smacks of a lack of relevance

Just because you can say something, and have a platform to do it — doesn’t mean you should.

Trying to cling to that bandwagon via any means possible — when it’s clear the issue or topic has no relevance to your usual organisational social value proposition — is disingenuous and risks offending those whom the cause is designed to support.

Avoid tokenism like the plague. If you have something to say — mean it. Don’t jump on the bandwagon with a half-hearted attempt at SEO relevance.

If there is not a clearly defined reason why you SHOULD have a public opinion or position on an issue, then ask yourself: why are you trying to?

3. Never be the first to arrive at the party

Jumping on the social bandwagon before all the facts of the matter become clear might get you a quick vanity metrics boost from the pitchfork wielding types, but if they aren’t your regular audience you risk alienating your base AND creating the perception that your motivations aren’t aligned with your corporate values.

Truth, honesty and transparency trump all else and cannot be easily redeemed once lost.

Knowingly publishing misinformation isn’t ‘fake news’ – it’s deceptive conduct. In the rush to be the first conversation starter are you willing to risk your reputation for a quick but very temporary vanity metrics boost? Particularly when those metrics are likely to report sentiment outrage rather than support your key social objectives?

If you’re going to join the bandwagon troupe, get your facts straight and enter the conversation honourably by respecting opposing views. Don’t rush to create outrage or a spectacle; for the issue or your organisation.

4. Being late to the social party is not fashionable; it’s lame

If you’ve chosen now as the time to start your fidget spinner business, you’ve left it a little late. You should take a similar view to social content production — you have a short amount of time to capitalise on any new styles or formats before you look like the last horse trying to bolt over the finish line.

How many people watch that race until the last horse finishes? Exactly.

5. Copycats lack originality and creativity

Like the fidget spinner phenomena, once a fad has established itself on social media you can start the countdown clock to both its overuse and demise. On social media, that clock runs exponentially faster than in real life — you can count on your audience moving on after being bombarded with copycat content within 24 hours of it going mainstream.

Audiences quickly become fatigued with copycat content producers because they fail to deliver value and you can’t window dress that fact no matter how much you might try.

Remember why people engage and follow you in the first place and don’t be distracted by what your competitors are up to.

6. Communicate with intent, not to fill the silence

Everyone has the natural tendency to try and fill an awkward silence.

The need to ‘say something’ is strong but won’t always serve you well in a crisis or will be the cause of your crisis.

Make your words and content count. Do this by letting your audience know that every post is a carefully thought out and crafted message designed with them in mind. Think it through — every single time.

Avoid posting for the sake of it, or because you ‘haven’t in a while’ – the story of why you haven’t been active on social media in a while is far more interesting than a stunt.

7. Never deviate from your strategy without a parachute

Your social media strategy has been designed and authorised to guide your organisation’s online journey. Deviating from that agreement places you outside of the safe-zone established to manage the organisational comfort zone with regard to risk. That’s a perilous place to be without top cover.

If you deviate with intent, ensure you have a contingency plan — a parachute — for when your internal and external stakeholders start to feel uncomfortable.

That parachute should have been built in consultation with key stakeholders. So when you deploy it, you do so in full preparation of the likely landing — and that landing spot is within the organisation’s comfort zone.

Many take the ‘do it anyway, and apologise for it later if I have to’ strategy. But without a parachute and some investment from your organisation, it’s going to be a lonely trip down.

Respect your organisation’s boundaries and work with them, safely inside their comfort zones.


This blog was first published as part of Nicole’s series on social media crisis communications for Firebrand Talent.