Layoffs have been in the news lately. From Tesla to Microsoft to smaller startups, workforce reductions are making headlines as economic uncertainty, rising interest rates, and increasingly scarce venture capital impact the business landscape.

How a company navigates a round of layoffs or a permanent reduction in force has massive implications for the brand. It can affect partner relationships and the way potential customers view the brand. As unpleasant as layoffs are for all involved, handling them well is essential. 

Perhaps most importantly, poorly managed workforce changes can severely compromise a company’s employer brand. And the cyclical nature of the economy means that a company that is laying off employees today will sooner or later be hiring once again. Maintaining an excellent employer brand is crucial for filling vacant mission-critical positions.

Social media is a front line for any brand’s image. When layoffs are planned, the company’s social media presence should reflect empathy and compassion—the same qualities experts say are important for communicating layoffs to employees.

Let’s look at how social media managers can help companies navigate layoffs.

Start With a Basic Plan

Workforce reductions will impact multiple areas of a company’s social media marketing plan. This is an opportunity for social media managers to audit existing social media content, review upcoming editorial calendars, and discuss ongoing initiatives with stakeholders. 

Some types of posts will need to be paused altogether, while other content may be okay to share but should be worded more sensitively. These decisions should be made before any layoff announcements.

In fact, social media managers should already have a basic plan in place laying out the essential elements for dealing with workforce reductions on social media.

A basic plan will include:

  • Content categories to pause
  • Accounts to monitor (for example, executive accounts or additional brand handles)
  • Keywords to monitor for social listening
  • Industry publications to monitor for coverage or fallout when layoffs occur

This basic plan will be a starting point for an action plan when layoffs occur. 

Pause This Content

When a workforce reduction occurs, some content categories won’t be appropriate to share for a while. Check the editorial calendar for any planned or scheduled posts in these categories:

  • New hire announcements. Avoid announcing new hires on social media for at least a week after layoffs. While welcoming new employees is important, the risks here are significant. In addition to appearing insensitive, new hire announcements at this time may invite unwanted comments about recent workforce reductions.
  • Job opening and hiring posts. Sometimes layoffs are intended to reallocate hiring dollars to different business areas. But posting about career opportunities too soon after a round of layoffs carries similar risks as new hire announcements. 
  • Employee advocacy content. Employee spotlights, anniversary posts, and other employee content should be handled with great sensitivity during this period. Employees who were not part of the layoff will need time to process. Posting employee advocacy content could have the opposite of the desired impact. 
  • Executive promotions, bonuses, or honors. Executives make hard decisions, including when and to what extent layoffs happen. Now is not the time for the executive leadership team to take the spotlight. Exercise caution when posting about executive activities during a layoff cycle. 
Listen Carefully

Social listening and saved keyword searches are critical during a workforce reduction. You’ll want to monitor for negative reactions to the news on social media. Social media managers should talk with stakeholders about anticipated backlash and what channels and publications need to be monitored more closely than usual.

Areas to monitor include:

  • Executive social media handles. Keep an eye out for executive mentions in the context of layoffs. There may be ire directed at the leadership team in the aftermath of a workforce reduction. Setting up good social listening will help you proactively approach any backlash.
  • Company and brand name. Set up keyword searches for how your brand is referred to on social media and in industry publications. Include any common variations, so you don’t miss important mentions. Again, the goal is to be proactive as you deal with any potential negative coverage of layoffs.
  • Industry publications. If stakeholders anticipate negative commentary or news coverage, monitoring the publications where this might occur is a good idea. While there may be little a social media manager can do to prevent a negative news cycle, being aware of what’s said will be crucial.
What to Do Before Layoffs Occur

When layoffs are planned, social media managers and company stakeholders need to communicate about the timing of the announcement. This allows social media managers to review content and create an alternative social media content plan if necessary.

Before the layoff, social media managers should:

  • Review the editorial calendar to pause and reschedule content.
  • Set up appropriate social listening channels and keyword searches.
  • Review executive social media content if necessary.

Plan on pausing content in the categories we outlined here for at least a week. In some cases, pausing specific content categories for a more extended period will make sense. Social media managers and stakeholders should discuss what makes sense in the context of their company.

What to Do On the Day Layoffs Occur

On the day of the layoff announcement, the most important activity for social media managers will be monitoring. Check social media listening tools frequently and keep an eye on the news. 

Things to be on the lookout for include:

  • Employees or former employees talking about the layoffs.
  • Competitors commenting on the layoffs or reaching out to customers.
  • Media coverage of the layoffs.

Plan on continuing a “high-alert” approach to monitoring for at least a week. Ongoing monitoring may be appropriate for some of the keywords you set up prior to the layoff announcement.

What to Do After the Layoffs

After a round of layoffs is complete, social media managers should meet with stakeholders again to review the editorial calendar, determine the timing for resuming regular social media activity, and discuss any notable information surfaced from social listening.

Another important step to take at this point is to review evergreen content created by or featuring former employees impacted by the layoffs. This could include webinars, blog posts, conference appearances, and more. For this content, social media managers should work with stakeholders to decide:

  • Does this content remain in the historical feed, or should it be removed?
  • Will we continue to post this content in the future?

The answer to these questions may depend on the person featured in the content, the type of content it is, and other factors.

Workforce reductions pose unique challenges for social media professionals. Thoughtfulness and careful planning are essential for navigating these events and maintaining an appropriate presence on social media so the brand can emerge from a difficult period well-positioned for the future.

Want to have a conversation about social media? Let’s talk.