Our world is all to often filled with unexpected local and global tragedies that shock and sadden people. During these times it is normal for social media news streams to be filled with timely details and people’s personal sentiments.
As a social media strategist, I believe that (in most cases) a business shouldn’t “post as usual”. Posting about your sale or program can often make a brand seem heartless or insensitive. Depending on the brand I suggest a mixture of posting options.
Pick and choose posting options right for your brand:
- Post an acknowledgment of the tragedy, showing respect, and then post a toned down non-sales message later in the day.
- Silence is perfectly fine if a brand doesn’t want to post on the first full day of a tragedy.
- “Pause” any auto-posting messages for a day.
- Never use the tragedy as part of a post that includes a sales pitch.
The very last thing that a business needs is to have a misstep that will offend people on social media and create a brand nightmare.
Social media is all about community—and in times of tragedy or national distress, the community becomes more important than ever. Internet-goers use social media to reflect, react, and respond to tragedy; and through social media can easily spread hyperbole and inaccuracies, many users rely on its immediacy to share information in those first crucial moments of an unfolding event.
For brands, it can be hard to know just what to say during tragic times; but often, the best thing to say is nothing at all. Instances like Kenneth Cole’s #Cairo Tweet have become synonymous with the sort of social media disasters that no corporate PR team wants to clean up; but nearly every instance of a big brand blunder can be avoided by prioritizing real, human grief over absolutely any other agenda (An apology was later posted). Basic sensitivity in times of national distress is key—and for companies who misstep, a timely and sincere apology is critical.
The anniversary of September 11 is still as somber an occasion as ever, as Americans come together to pay tribute to those who lost their lives that tragic day—and unsurprisingly, most prefer to grieve without the input of brands. Though many brands were publicly shamed for tasteless tributes, AT&T stunned with a blatant advertisement:
The company’s “Never Forget” sentiment was met with a chorus of anger, shock, and disappointment due to the brand’s exploitative imagery. Though the tweet was quickly deleted, screenshots soon circulated on major news outlets as users awaited an apology from AT&T’s corporate Twitter account. An apology did soon follow, but many found the apology to be just as offensive as the original image:
If your brand falters, a sincere apology is always advisable—but sincerity is especially crucial in times of distress. Social media is fleeting, but something as insignificant as a tweet can have a critical impact on a brand’s reputation if it demonstrates an insensitivity to tragic events.
When posting during times of tragedy, use discretion; remember that silence is always a safe strategy. If your company would like to commemorate occasions like September 11, stick to short, simple tributes, and never exploit the day with any attempt to push a product. And if a new tragedy is unfolding, please—unless you can provide clarity or comfort, cancel any scheduled posts and stay quiet.
Resource: Fluency Media.
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