Engage Supporters Talking About #YourCrisis

During a crisis moment, rapid response engagement is paramount. By the time someone posts about a crisis on social media, they are motivated to take action and are already sharing their opinions with their community and the world. Our job as nonprofit professionals is to harness this passion from our supporters and move them towards action when the moment is top of mind.

But how do we know who is talking about #OurCrisis or #TheirCrisis? More importantly, how can we engage our most important stakeholders who are active on social media?

Who is Talking About #OurCrisis?

One of the most effective ways nonprofits can see if a crisis is trending with followers and email subscribers is through social insights. These insights allow you to better target groups or individuals via social and email to increase engagement and reach of your message, especially when a crisis hits.

Social insights allow you to see how your socially active supporters talk about a given crisis in relation to your mission.

How is this possible? Data gathered from social media can now be connected to supporter records which includes social listening and social data like Klout score, reach, post frequency, and other information. The integration of data can show how your people are talking about a given crisis and their relationship with your organization.

What this means for crisis communications is that social insights can be used as a real-time polling method to evaluate how (and if) key stakeholders are talking about issues while providing an immediate opportunity to engage them.

When your crisis is in the limelight, use social insights for real time engagement when your supporters mention terms or hashtags surrounding the event. The opportunity isn’t so much responding to the few and obvious @organization shout outs, but your timely engagement of everyone, especially current supporters, who are talking about keywords and hashtags related to the issue at hand.

Impact the Conversation with Social Listening + Social Data

During a crisis moment, it’s key to monitor and engage your VIP and “Professional” social media influencers who could dramatically shape the narrative and share your message. Before you mobilize perhaps your greatest hidden resource, you obviously need to know how to identify your influencers who are hanging out in your database(s), which is easier than you think.

Keeping the pulse of how members of the media in your database discuss a crisis gives you a leg up for pitching and engaging reporters. Ralph Medley of American Friends Service Committee routinely uses social listening to see how the media talks about their issues each week and during a crisis like #Ferguson.

“Social listening is deeply woven into our editorial process and plays a huge role in helping us determine our content development. Are journalists sourcing our experts or resources? Is our campaign resonating with our audiences? Did we see a spike in chatter after a big push? All of this helps us determine our reach and impact.”

Multimedia strategist Molly Katz also suggests showing, not telling, journalists that your supporters agree with your analysis by providing your own engagement data to support your unsolicited pitches. Social insights can offer reporting on trending terms and hashtags that show trends daily, weekly or from any time period.

In addition to crisis management, Anita Jackson of MomsRising uses social listening in their “Metrics Monday” team report to review what’s trending in the news and what supporters are talking about. “It’s interesting for us to see the overall chatter and where we fit into the conversation.”

Engage People During the Moment

The ability to understand who is talking about the crisis and how they talk about it, especially if they are current supporters, gives you a window to mobilize around your message and call to action. They key is to engage quickly while passions run high on email, social, video-based campaign calls, and mobile if you’re savvy like EveryTown.

Show your supporters social love by participating in the conversation, especially on Twitter, around key terms by responding within 24 hours. Strive to incorporate the voices of “real people” regarding the crisis by commenting, retweeting, and favoriting their posts. If someone seems like a great future advocate, go ahead and follow them on social. A crisis presents a rare engagement opportunity, so don’t pass on connecting with any supporter who takes the time to speak up.

Scale Your Responses With Marketing Automation

Since responding to every mention isn’t scaleable, you’ll want to incorporate marketing automation to crisis communication, so when someone mentions #YourCrisis, they receive an automated email letting them know how they can help within 24 hours of the mention.

Prioritize your responses on social media by segmenting everyone who is talking about the terms, including their social influence (i.e. Klout score) and past involvement. This way, your key staff know when socially influential donors, VIPs, or the media talk about the crisis, and your team can respond within 24 hours on social or email.


Since most organizations don’t deal with crises on a regular basis, the real opportunity is to show your supporters that you’re responsive when something important to them occurs. This tactic isn’t about responding to every problem that trends on social media, but instead using social insights to make an informed decision about whether to engage your supporters with a call to action that connects back to your mission.

Leveraging social insights to learn how people talk about a crisis on social media will help inform your communication strategy so you never miss an opportunity to engage.


Jeanette Russell
Jeanette is a nonprofit marketer at Blackbaud who is dedicated to scaling #socialgood through nonprofit technology. During her 20 years in nonprofit sector, she’s worked with thousands of nonprofits and brings a deep understanding of organizing, fundraising and modern engagement. Passionate about social change, Jeanette writes and speaks nationally about how technology empowers everyday advocates to take greater roles in helping cause deliver their mission. As a digital pioneer living in Missoula, Montana, she’s spent nearly a decade evangelizing one of first online engagement platforms, Salsa Labs, then joined Attentive.ly as the Marketing Director which was acquired by Blackbaud in 2016. Jeanette has served on the advisory board of JustGive, Board Director of the New Leaders Council (MT) and co-founded the National Forest Protection Alliance.