Communication is challenging enough during somewhat “normal” times. During times of crisis, like natural disasters, times of civil unrest, or even during health pandemics communication is even harder.
But keeping lines of communication open during times of crisis is a necessary activity to ensure the free-flow of information and to help provide us with a sense of calm during tough times.
While there has been a lot of bad press about Facebook lately, it can’t be disputed that humans world-wide turn to the social network during times of crisis to communicate. Even though social networks like Facebook weren’t initially intended to be crisis communication tools, their ability to connect us with each other, despite geographic distances makes them a logical tool.
If you just look at the numbers relating specifically to Facebook, it becomes clear why it is easily adopted as an effective communication tool during a crisis. The Facebook app is one of the most downloaded apps for mobile devices, with more than five billion downloads on Google Play.
With more than 2.45 billion monthly active users, it’s hard to imagine not being able to connect with someone on Facebook.
Because of this widespread adoption, Facebook becomes a logical tool to turn to during a crisis situation in order to receive information updates and keep in contact with family, friends, and colleagues.
Currently, much of the world is in shock after the recent massive spread of the Coronavirus. From late 2019, the virus has been on the news and everyone is anxious to learn more about the progression of the disease in their particular country or region. As a result, many folks are turning to Facebook for information.
Add to that the imposed “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” orders and Facebook makes even more sense to leverage as a tool to stay informed and connected.
While most users are familiar with the basic Facebook tools of posting a status update or sharing a photo, I thought I’d take a quick moment to share a few other ways to leverage Facebook as a communication tool during these challenging times.
Method #1 – Share positive updates with your friends and family
This is the easiest one and nearly ever user of Facebook understands how to share status updates. But take a moment to consider expanding your network to include those who might not have been on your friends list.
Are you grandparents retired in Florida? Is your uncle in a nursing home? Are their co-workers who you aren’t friends with? Try to find ways to expand your Facebook network and share positive updates with them.
Keep in mind that there is a lot of misinformation on Facebook, so take your time and be sure to fact-check any content before you share it. Also, resist the temptation to get involved in online arguments. Stick to sharing updates about your activities and valid, fact-checked information.
Remember, people are already under duress during a crisis, so find a way to send some positive energy their way.
Method #2 – Communicate privately with your friends, family, and colleagues
Not every message sent on Facebook needs to be public. In fact, Facebook Messenger is a very popular way to share more private messages with your family or colleagues. You can use the tool to send messages to individuals or to groups.
Much like Facebook status updates, you can share links, images, and even videos via Facebook Messenger…making it a robust platform for 1:1 or 1:few communications.
TIP: Be aware that there is an ongoing bug with the Facebook Messenger app that cause the app to display an alert that you have an unread message when you don’t have one. If this glitch is annoying you, there are several ways to clear the message badge on the app.
Method #3 – Use Facebook Messenger to engage in one-on-one video chats
One of the biggest challenges in video communication are the different apps for the various operating systems. For years now, Android and Apple have been at battle, with neither really willing to compromise on a standard video chat application for their operating system.
The crux of the problem is that FaceTime, the most prevalent video chat app for Apple iOS isn’t available for Android users. So, for a family chat where there are Android devices involved, FaceTime just isn’t an option.
Enter Facebook Messenger video chat.
Because Facebook is so widely adopted, a lot of users have also downloaded the Facebook Messenger chat application, which includes a robust video chat capability. Much like FaceTime, anyone with a Facebook account can start a video chat with a friend or family member with the touch of a button.
By using Facebook Messenger for your video chats, the issue of using different operating systems is moot.
One other positive of Facebook Messenger video chat is you can have up to 50 different people on at a time listening, but keep in mind that only six people will show up in the video screen on the app.
Method #4 – Use Facebook Messenger Rooms to create a video chat with multiple people
During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the use of video chat tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams has skyrocketed as a large part of the workforce found themselves working from home. To compete with these tools, Facebook launched Facebook Messenger Rooms for Groups.
The Facebook Rooms tool allows you to create a room and then invite up to 50 of your friends and guests to video chat. Yep, that’s right…guests. You don’t even have to have a Facebook account to join a Facebook Room.
To start a Room in Facebook Messenger, just open the Messenger app and click the “People” icon. From there, you can create a new room and invite the people you would like to join.
Method #5 – Use Facebook Live to share real-time information in video format
Information is only as good as the time it is shared, so the ability to provide real-time information makes a Facebook Live another great tool to stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues. For instance, imagine being able to share real-time video of damage caused by a natural disaster with your insurance agent for the purposes of filing a claim.
In a health crisis like a pandemic lock-down, grandparents who are in another state or are locked down in a nursing home don’t have to miss your child’s birthday party. Just fire up Facebook Live and stream video content with anyone who has a Facebook account instantly.
Another great benefit of using Facebook Live to share video is you can save the real-time video and publish it to your Facebook feed for others to review later. You can even download it for posterity.
Method #6 – Form private support and empowerment groups
Anyone who understands the turmoil and grief that a crisis can cause can also appreciate that the support of others is critical in navigating through the crisis. Not only is it important to provide emotional support, but by remaining on constant contact with each other, financial and knowledge-sharing can play in important part of the recovery.
Through their “Groups” functionality, Facebook allows anyone to create targeted support groups for any type of crisis. These groups can be a small as a family or neighborhood or as large as an international group with members from around the world. The key is find people who are similarly situated and are interested in supporting one-another.
Using a group, you can share valuable, credible information that wold be beneficial to those who join.
Method #7 – Use Facebook Pages to stay connected with your customers
Sometimes, a crisis can be personal, like a disease diagnosis, regional like a natural disaster (e.g. earthquake, tornado, hurricane, etc…) or even international like a pandemic declaration. In those times, it’s possible that businesses could be impacted and lose connectivity with their customer based. For instance, a natural disaster may have disrupted telephone communication or a government may have temporarily suspended non-essential business operations.
As a result, you could look to a tool like a company Facebook page to share important updates about your business, information with employees, and even service availability with your customers.
Even if other businesses are negatively impacted and yours isn’t, letting people know via your Facebook business page that you are open, may help your customers gain access to your products or services.
If, for example, you run a restaurant that cannot allow diners to eat in the dining room, but you are still providing delivery or curb-side service, it’s great to let your customers know what to expect, what procedure to follow, and if there are any restrictions the menu you are offering during the crisis.
Method #8 – Gather together and find entertainment with Facebook Watch
No matter how big or how small, times of crisis are times of stress. Whether the issue is only impacting your family or the world as a whole, it can be tough to find relief from the stress of the situation.
Luckily, Facebook watch does provide one avenue for relaxing and allowing you to think about something other than the crisis. Not only does Facebook Watch contain a virtually endless library of videos, but you can also customize the videos you’d like to watch.
The best part about Facebook Watch is that it is available wherever you are, as long as you have a connection to the Internet. No need to drive to a movie theater or other entertainment venue, if you can load Facebook, you can watch content on Facebook Watch. Perfect for those situations where your community might be encouraged to stay home.
When it comes to working our way through challenging times of crisis, it’s important to stay connected to those we care about. Their support and guidance can often be a valuable resource.
Because of its wide adoption and plethora of tools, Facebook does seem to be a good resource for helping us remain connected during times of crisis.
If you use any of the Facebook tools mentioned above or have a different favorite tool that you like, be sure to add it in a comment below. I’d be really interested to hear what Facebook tools you find valuable during tough times. As always, you can also reach out and share experiences or ask questions via my contact form.