The Dos & Don’ts of Social Media During a Crisis

April 09, 2020

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“It’s our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
-Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Why did I introduce this blog topic with a quote from Harry Potter?

  1. 1. I love Harry Potter and couldn’t help it.
  2. 2. Albus Dumbledore would have made a great social media advisor during a crisis.
    (Side note – I wonder what his Twitter handle would be...)

There’s no secret that we’re in a global health and economic crisis. What brands do now on social media will say a lot about who they are. A brand doesn’t have to have the ability to solve and end this problem, they just need to make the right choices so that they land right side up when our world stops being flipped upside down.

Here are a few social media dos and don’ts to keep in mind during a crisis, along with a few Harry Potter references as examples:


1. Go dark

Darkness is for the Forbidden Forest and star gazing, not social media during a crisis. We’ve all been asked to stay home, and while some of us have taken to puzzling or baking banana bread, many are spending more time online than ever before. Your brand needs to be in your customers’ social media feed, not forgotten. Continue to post and digitally advertise to stay relevant; just make sure it’s the right type of content (see #1 under Dos.)

2. Be phony

No one likes a Gilderoy Lockhart, a clueless, pompous poser with an unbridled ego. Even though we’re living in an unprecedented world, now is not the time to change your brand voice or personality. Stay authentic to who you are on social media, and your followers will trust you. Use this time to promote only your products or services that will help your followers, but don’t change who you are in the process.

3. Spread anxiety

Now is not the time to be like the unscrupulous, fake-news Rita Skeeter and spread exaggerated or dire news; leave that to unprincipled media outlets. Focus on sharing the good stuff!

4. Expect your metrics to stay the same

We’re in unprecedented times, and social media is no exception. There are more people stuck at home and on their phones, but that does not necessarily mean that engagement will increase. Our audiences are distracted and worried about themselves, and that’s okay! While your QoQ reports will be skewed, don’t take it personally.

5. Manage the crisis like the Ministry of Magic dealt with Voldemort’s return

If you know, you know. And if you don’t, the short version is this: pretending bad things aren’t happening doesn’t make them go away. Clear communication helps. Tell the truth, even if it’s tough to hear, but stay positive.


1. Rethink your social media calendar

You know that social media calendar you painstakingly created and scheduled a month ago? It’s going to need some more TLC. Review all scheduled posts to make sure they’re not insensitive, unaware or irrelevant due to current events. Check on that calendar more often, rewrite copy if needed or replace content. Give your social media calendar the attention that Hagrid gave baby Norbert in Book 1; if a baby dragon can get TLC, so can your content.

2. Go live

You don’t have to have the brains of Hermione Granger to learn how to conduct a Facebook or Instagram Live. Connect with your audience in a new, personal way by hosting a virtual Q&A, event, webinar or conference on your social media channel. This will give you practice with the newest social media feature and allow you to continue with your planned events, just in a different way. Plus, showing that there are real, everyday people behind your social media account, rather than a computer, will personalize your brand by giving it an approachable feel.

3. Use your influence for good

You’ve worked hard to gather a loyal following. You may not have the celebrity power of the wizarding world’s Weird Sisters (mega rock band) or Victor Krum (badass Quidditch player), but your audience often does what you suggest on social media. Now is the time to use that influence for good. If your brand is in the position to give back financially, you could commit to donating to a non-profit up to a certain amount based on the number of likes your post receives or matching your followers’ donations. You’ll be giving back and generating brand goodwill at the same time, win-win!

4. Set an example

You probably didn’t expect your brand’s social media account to move mountains when you created it, but Harry Potter also didn’t expect to defeat Voldemort with a seemingly ordinary spell like expecto patronum. Social media can actually be a powerful tool and, during a crisis, you should use it to show how your brand is doing the right things in order to set an example. Don’t rely on just email or your website to communicate health and safety updates when more and more social media users first turn to a brand’s social pages for updates. Communicating on social media how your brand is staying safe and following the CDC’s guidelines will set an example for your followers to do the same and #flattenthecurve.

5. Remember people are quietly struggling.

There are lots of Neville Longbottoms and Luna Lovegoods out there, not shouting for attention or posting every night what they made their family for dinner during quarantine. They’re quietly trying to get through each and every day, keeping their struggle to themselves. So above all, be sensitive and empathetic. Think before you type. Keep in mind that while we’re all in this together, some are more alone than others.

Now that you know what to do and what not to do, I’ll close in the same way that I started, with the wise words of Albus Dumbledore:

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times,
if one only remembers to turn on the light.”