Responding to Tragedy on Social Media

Brands and Tragedy WordPress

Social media is the most powerful medium for people sharing news. Where else can hundreds of millions of people express not only news that is happening but also their opinion on that particular news story?

The every-day news is something that brands can mostly ignore – indeed 99% of brands should proactively ignore regular news stories to avoid being embroiled in the hustle and bustle of political opinion.

However, every so often, and mercifully the situations are rare, there is a large-scale tragedy which has an impact on the world (or should we say on our world?). The terrorist attacks on Boston and Paris are two examples of such large scale events, but there are also the deaths of world-famous celebrities such as David Bowie which, while on a very different level to terrorist attacks, still have an impact. Social media is often the first place that people go to find out about what is happening on such breaking stories.

That means that brands often feel like they should produce a post in response to such events but is that the right thing to do and if so, how do you post in such delicate situations?

Are people really waiting for you to post? With events which have an impact on the whole world, are people really waiting to hear what you have to say? There is argument that in most cases, brands should not post at all. Not because it’s a risk but more because the event has got nothing to do with them.

Turn automated posts off. Most brands line up content to be posted in the future, but world-scale tragedies can alter the context of our posts. Don’t be in any doubt, switch any automation off.

Be sincere and believe in what you say. Simple messages are best – there are some good examples of brands who say the right thing succinctly and nothing else. This is absolutely the model to follow if you feel like you should post.

Don’t tie it to your promotional or brand messaging. It seems like this piece of advice is so obvious that it doesn’t need mentioning. And yet time and time again, brands will use a tragedy to gain some impressions for their promotion. Getting this wrong is not only incredible poor judgement but disrespectful to those affected by the tragedy. 50 cent and Paris and epicurious examples.

Can you help out? Is your role passive, as in you will send your condolences, or should you be more proactive and actually help out? If you have an opportunity to help (ie you can share helpline numbers, or offer your product or resource) and only post a message sending condolences and nothing else, expect to hear from your followers asking what you are actually doing to help?

When the worst really does happen, and unfortunately we know that it will, brands should remember why social media became popular all those years ago: show the human side of your business and absolutely don’t be selling.

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