Lauren Melby: Save the Day with a Social Media Escalation Plan

by Scott Reid

With the increased use of online reviews and social media, managing your student housing community’s reputation goes beyond responding quickly to maintenance requests and having an enthusiastic leasing team eager to handle all resident concerns.

While these components are both crucial to maintaining a positive reputation among current and potential residents, it is important to be fully prepared and to have a plan in place, to handle all crisis situations. A crisis situation doesn’t always mean handling a violent crime that took place at your community or a series of break-ins. A crisis situation is defined as anything that can affect not only your community’s reputation, but also your bottom line.

Is your team prepared to deal with the types of situations that may not have been planned for? Below are a few examples of crisis situations that our team has had experience dealing with:

  •       An angry employee has access to all of your community’s social media accounts and posts inappropriate content from your community’s brand page
  •       A robbery at the community
  •       An employee misrepresents your brand by posting on their personal social media account disparaging comments about potential residents who have toured the community
  •       A violent act or crime committed at the community
  •      A new building not being complete on time
  •       An issue caused onsite by a hired community vendor

These examples, among many others, are also considered crisis situations and prove the importance of having a social media escalation plan in place for your community so that you are prepared to take the necessary steps on social media to overcome any negative buzz.

Below are five important things to keep in mind when creating a social media escalation plan for your community:

  1.  Establish key messages – Key messaging is probably the first and most important step to your escalation plan. It ensures that your entire team is on the same page with how everyone is responding to comments and concerns regarding the situation. We recommend establishing key messages for each audience, i.e., students, parents, media, etc.
  2.  Never ignore the situation – If a negative comment has been posted about your crisis situation or on your community’s social media page, it is important to always acknowledge the comment and respond. By ignoring negative comments, students will feel that your community has something to hide and they will continue to have a negative perception regarding the situation. We recommend even taking it a step further and searching for the topic with keywords or hashtags to address any comments made outside of your brand’s page. Eighty-six percent of social media users expect to hear from a brand regarding a complaint within a maximum of 24 hours of posting.
  3. Respond quickly – In the midst of a crisis situation, it is crucial to have your social media manager on high alert, monitoring your community’s page even more frequently than normal. The longer a question or comment goes unanswered, the more unhappy the student or parent will become.
  4. Understand what is in the media – In addition to monitoring social media, it is important to understand what has been published in the media regarding your crisis situation. Chances are, the publication or a student will tweet about the article, and by already understanding what the media has addressed, you will be fully prepared to respond quickly.
  5. Understand when to move forward – During a crisis situation, it is important to know when to resume posting your usual content and graphics on social media. Posting humorous or unrelated content too soon will result in backlash from your followers.

Social media is continuing to become an even more prominent tool used by students to spread buzz and find immediate information. It is vital for your community to have a social media escalation plan in place to effectively manage your reputation.

Lauren Melby is a marketing account executive for Serendipit Consulting, a public relations, marketing, branding and event-planning firm with a specialization in the student housing market. She can be reached directly at [email protected] or at (602) 283-5209.

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