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Role of Social Media During a Tragedy

Posted by Jessica Polley Filed Under Social Media, Strategy

Recent tragic events in Paris and San Bernardino, California have been grim reminders that natural and unnatural disasters are too common these days. While social media can be a powerful tool to communicate news, it can also be a double-edged sword for a community manager. Being too quick to capitalize on the moment, particularly with a branded sentiment, may cast the brand as being self-promotional in a time of tragedy. However, keeping with business as usual posts may cause followers to wonder if the social media manager is tweeting from a cave. While there are no hard guidelines for social media posting during a tragedy, here are some things to consider when the event arises.

  • Have a plan. It’s important to identify who from your team will make the call to pause social media activity when disaster strikes, and communicate that decision to the broader team. In most companies, this is a judgment call made by the brand’s marketing or social media community manager. Having a go-to plan in place should be a part of your social media planning discussions. It’s also important to identify a back up person who has account access in case your primary community manager is unavailable.
  • Understand the scope. Assess the news to determine the weight of the situation. Is this limited to a specific geographic region? Is it a major tragedy gaining widespread attention?
  • Pause social media activity. In the event that the situation is a major tragedy involving the loss of life, it is best to pause your social media content for 24 hours while you assess who is affected, and then re-evaluate and monitor from there. Posting content during a national or international crisis/disaster appears insensitive and out of touch. You should also pause any social media ads that are currently running, or are scheduled to run.
  • Re-evaluate. After 24 hours, re-evaluate the news to determine if it seems appropriate to re-activate social media posts and ads. When your follower base has resumed “business as usual” posts, you’re clear to resume your proactive postings.

If well executed, your brand’s behaviors in a time of national or global crisis may not be remembered – and that is the goal. No one wants to land on the “what not to do” list, particularly in times when the focus should be on supporting people, not selling goods or services.