Social media can be the best tool you have in a crisis

July 8, 2019

The stories of social media causing a crisis can be found anywhere. We’ve all heard about interns using the wrong account to send a tweet or a business that posts an inappropriate response to an online review. But did you know that social media can be critical to help solve a crisis as well?

For an entire week, Austinites counted down until 10 a.m. on June 12 for the chance to place their season ticket deposits for Austin FC’s inaugural season. But just five minutes before deposits became available, the team’s website crashed.

For a few minutes, as social media chatter spiked and local newsrooms started getting phone calls from panicking fans, the day looked like it might be a disaster. Luckily, in large part thanks to social media, ECPR was able to work with the team to turn the day into a record-breaking story.

Within minutes of the website crashing, Austin FC posted a workaround link on all of its social media channels that allowed people to go straight to the ticket vendor to make their deposit. In addition, supporters on the team’s email list received a message with a new, working link. Every megaphone the team had to notify people about the direct link was used to get the information out to as many people as quickly as possible.

The results were immediate. Many fans were already monitoring the team’s social media accounts for an update once they realized the website was down, knowing that this was the most likely place to receive an update. An overwhelming number of Austin FC fans saw the posts and placed their deposits within a few minutes. Then, these fans took to social media to help their friends and fellow Austinites find and use the workaround link for their deposits.

During this time, ECPR manned Austin FC’s social media accounts and proceeded to individually respond to every comment about the website going down with the bypass link. ECPR also handled customer service issues, including answering questions about the deposits and seat options so that people could make educated buying decisions.

Approximately 75 minutes after it went down, the Austin FC website was operating again. But, thanks to social media, Austin FC fans didn’t have to wait that long to place their deposits.

ECPR’s quick thinking continued. ECPR worked with Austin FC staff to develop a set of talking points about the website issue. Then, ECPR put Austin FC President Andy Loughnane in front of a camera speaking directly to fans letting them know what happened that morning and taking responsibility for the difficulties. The video was posted on all of Austin FC’s social media channels.

ECPR spent the rest of the day responding to fan comments on the team’s social media pages and continuing to check in with fans that had posted about the website issues to make sure that they had placed their deposits. Overall, ECPR used Austin FC’s social media accounts to personally interact with more than 600 fans who had reached out to the team with questions or complaints that morning.

By the end of the day, what began as a crisis turned into a success as it became clear that Austin FC had broken Major League Soccer records regarding the number of season ticket memberships reserved by deposits in one day.

June 12 could have been a disaster for the team. But turning the day into a success occurred for a few critical reasons:

Fans knew to turn to social media for an answer – and they got one.

During a crisis, people will look for answers on your website and your social media. ECPR knew right away that the key to helping fans navigate the website problem was to use social media to communicate with them openly and quickly.

Quick solutions led to quick resolutions.

Time was a huge factor in making this day a success. If Austin FC had taken even five more minutes to post a solution to its social media channels, the angst among fans might have reached a point of no return. Posting a bypass link to social media within minutes of the website crash, coupled with Austin FC President Andy Loughnane’s public apology less than two hours later, averted disaster. Every minute mattered and could have been the difference between putting out a small fire or dealing with an inferno.

Taking responsibility matters.

There were no excuses. In his video address, Loughnane made it clear that the team was deeply sorry for the frustration the website situation caused for fans. He explained the source of the problem but didn’t make excuses. He took responsibility and apologized.

Every customer is important.

As we already know, social media is the new form of customer service. Responding to customers online is critical to building trust and letting them know they’re valued. But this type of attention can take time. The easy solution is to post one response on your website or social media channels and hope everyone that matters sees it. But one-on-one conversation is priceless. Taking that extra time to converse with fans can easily be the key to turning a social media follower into a season ticket holder.

#AustinLovesSoccer

If people didn’t know it before, they know it now – Austin loves soccer and the excitement around welcoming the city’s first major league sports team is spreading. Website frustrations aside, people are looking forward to kick-off in March 2021.

The next time a crisis strikes, it might seem like the safe solution is to stay quiet or say as little as possible. But social media never sleeps. Rather than let it work against you during a disaster, use it to your advantage. It just might be the best tool you have.

Cynthia Martinez is a digital strategist with Elizabeth Christian Public Relations.