Student Affairs Social Media Crisis Communication Thoughts

The right goals, the right plan.

April 9, 2015
What is your social media plan?

I've been thinking quite a bit about student affairs crisis communication and how social media extends the reach of every message that is sent out during a crisis. Oftentimes, student affairs communicators are brought into the overall fold of an institutional response, but sometimes, student affairs is on their own and have to respond accordingly.

Here are some thoughts and ideas on student affairs social media crisis communication:


  • Planning - If your student affairs division is using social media, then there has to be a social media crisis communication plan. The plan may trickle down from the institution's primary accounts, but you should at least have some sense of what you're going to do as part of the overall structure.
  • Responsibility - Who is in charge? Just like any response team within a student affairs division, crisis communication is far easier to manage when a designated team is at the ready.
  • Consistency - Is your messaging consistent across all of the student affairs social media channels? Ensuring that everyone is on the same digital page is an important aspect of providing clarity across all social properties.
  • Turn off auto-posts - In the event of a crisis, turn off all of your automated social media activity.
  • Less is more - While it may appear to the outside world that you are withholding information, during a crisis, communication (even on social media) should be as concise as possible.
  • Link to your blog or website - If you do need to get more information out to your various stakeholders, the easiest way to do so is via your website and/or blog. Share links to your crisis communication statements, videos, documents, etc. on your foundational digital channels.
  • Countering misinformation - It's far too easy for inaccurate information to spread like wildfire on the web. You may need to issue clarifying statements on your social media channels in order to counter misinformation.
  • Amplification - Social media can be your best friend in a crisis and it can also spread all sorts of falsities far faster than any other type of media. Use the amplification effect of social media to your advantage. Build up your networks and connections now so that should a crisis occur, you will have a strong base of folks ready to help amplify your messaging.
  • Patience - You may need to be quiet for a little while on your social media channels. University leadership may not want anyone sharing anything about a situation until they are ready for a unified response. Be aware of the policies and procedures that are in place...and be ready to be patient.
  • Balancing speed with accuracy - Everyone will want to know everything about a crisis as soon as possible. However, it's just not possible to be as fast as the currents of social media. Work towards a balance of always being accurate as well as having a sense of urgency in your social media communiques.
  • The intentional redirect - You may want to share more about a crisis than you are allowed to post. In this situation, always go back to sharing the primary channels/messaging at your institution. There will be multitudes of instances where you will not be able to share some of your insider knowledge and that's okay. Everything does not always need to be shared on social media channels.

What would you add to this list?

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