This is a topic that has sparked a fair amount of controversy. During Hurricane Sandy, several online retailers were criticized for talking about online shopping and tying it to the storm. And certainly over the past couple of days, there have been tweets that were considered insensitive as well. So many of us schedule posts and tweets ahead of time. But when tragedy strikes, we need to have a clearcut strategy for how to handle this, as well as what we post during and after these events.
Use personal judgment. In the simplest of terms, if a post or a tweet would bother you as a person, then take it down. As a lifestyle blogger, and a social media manager, I do schedule a great deal of my posts and tweets ahead of time to save time. Monday I was completely unaware that anything had happened until my husband called me. His sister was running in Boston, and was 3/4 of mile from the finish line when the bombs went off. As a runner, I had been following a live blog with updates on the status of the elite runners in the morning through Runner’s World but that coverage ended well before the explosions took place.
To be honest, when I found out what had happened, the last thing I was thinking about were those posts and tweets. All I could think about was the horror of what had happened. But shortly thereafter, after sharing my own sadness about the day, I shut off my Twitter and Facebook posts. To me, that felt right. I didn’t feel right talking about my blog or any others, or sharing a marketing campaign, with such sadness surrounding us. I can’t imagine anyone was interested in hearing about getting their home organized or how my dog was sleeping on the coffee table when I got home from a conference.
Show compassion. I myself am not particularly bothered by seeing posts and tweets unrelated to the tragedy…there are many who will say it can help brighten your day when all the news around you is depressing. However, it does bother me when I see companies using the tragedy as a marketing tool. I don’t want to see #BostonMarathon tagged in your marketing campaign. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’m probably going to unfollow you, and you’re going to lose a customer. Enough said.
Acknowledge mistakes. If an untimely or insensitive post/tweet goes out, acknowledge it. There’s always a chance of not hearing the news on a timely basis, and if you use automated tweets and posts, like so many do, there’s a likelihood that something will slip through the cracks. But as soon as you hear, make the appropriate adjustments, and apologize for anything insensitive. It’s the right thing to do.
Once you’ve made adjustments to your social media accounts, the question remains as to when to resume your regular posts and tweets. Again, use your judgment. You may want to take into account where you’re located…if you’re in the same area as where the tragedy took place, it will take longer to feel like you can resume posting. It may depend on your brand as well. One of the most wonderful things about social media is the fact that its “social.” You actually have the opportunity to reach so many more people than you can reach personally and build customer relationships online. But those relationships in some ways are more fragile than face to face interactions. Be smart! I don’t think there are any absolutes here. Living a couple towns over from Newtown, and a few hours from Boston, I did feel the need to go silent for a period of time with my social media accounts. Yes, business goes on, but I think the last thing anyone wants to see at a time of terrible tragedy and mourning is a marketing message. To me, that’s just common sense.
My intention isn’t to call anyone out…rather it’s to spark a dialogue. These are the guidelines I follow for myself and those I work with, but I’d love for you to chime in as well.
How do you handle your social media accounts during times of tragedy?