It is with a heavy heart that we address one of the hardest parts about being active social media users. While social media is normally a place for sharing fun stories and photos of friend’s engagements and family holidays, it is not uncommon for us to see trending hashtags addressing the latest national crisis or terrorist attack. We live in a world where you’re expected to share every life moment, but when does sharing become problematic? This can often be difficult to determine as a brand.
On a day like today when the world is at a loss for words, it is important that we talk about the right and wrong ways to approach crises on social media. It is vital to keep the following tips in mind when deciding whether or not to post during a sensitive time:
Have A Plan
Every crisis is going to be different from the next and the one before it, so above all else, it is important that you develop a plan of action. Create guidelines internally for how your social teams should handle an event, should one arise, and how you plan to communicate these plans to your clients. At Socialfly, we have an internal team meeting to discuss how any clients may be directly related or effected by a current event, and how we plan to handle messaging for that particular brand. It is important to work with your clients and brands to decide what types of events they feel comfortable addressing, and which ones during which they would rather remain silent.
Suspend Promotional Activity
Social media happens in real time, and this is necessary for your business to always keep in mind. A crisis is not the time to share coupon codes and sale alerts, but instead, a time to show your audience your brand puts people, not sales, first. You may want to continue sharing normally scheduled posts, as long as they are not insensitive to the event or your followers. If you have a contest running or one set to launch, communicate with your brand contacts and explain to them that it would be best to extend the contest timeline for, at the very least, 24 hours.
Consider Your Location
Your company’s location must be taken into account when deciding what to post (or what not to post) immediately following a tragedy. AdWeek suggests, “Don’t go dark, just ‘dim the lights.'” If your brand finds itself close to the heart of a national event, you may want to continue posting for a number of reasons, especially if your brand can offer any assistance to those affected by the tragedy. One way to do this is by having a community manager get on Twitter and search for any nearby businesses or other social media users offering a helping hand to those closest to the site of tragedy. Your brand can retweet these users to help get their message out to help steer people towards safety. Another reason you may want to continue posting, as long as your posts aren’t promotional, is to maintain a sense of normality to your fans and followers.
Show Compassion Through Tasteful Posts
Many brands and agencies feel that the best you can say during a tragedy is nothing at all. While we do not believe in posting something just for the sake of putting your message out, we do believe that there are positive ways to share a message in times of crisis on social media, and that you should if you feel so inclined. Messages of hope and condolences are a great way to let your community know you are acknowledging that today is not like every other day, and that your brand is taking the time to think of those currently suffering (Case). If you want to say something, do so in a respectful and genuine way. Many big brands and celebrities sometimes choose to retweet, repost, or regram trending photos surrounding the event, and many include their own small message to victims, survivors, and the rest of the world. It is also important to avoid mixing politics and religion with your brand’s messaging, as this may offend some users and turn people off to your company. It is important for brands always remain supportive but neutral in times of crisis.
Always remember that while the world is going through a difficult time, it is important to remain calm. During a crisis, people want to know that their world is still safe, and have hope that things will be okay. This is your time as a brand to be the trusted voice of reason and support.