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In the Wake of Tragedy What Should Brands on Social Do? Be Quiet.

Posted by Betsy Smith on April 16th, 2013 at 7:01 am

In the wake of tragedies, people turn to social media for instant information, to fulfill our human need to connect. This is when social media really shines, when it’s promise as an instant means of communications and information comes true.

Brands on social seem to struggle with tragedy. PR agencies, ad firms and digital shops are filled with people who are affected, even if indirectly when tragedy strikes. Everyone struggles with coming up with the right thing to say. There is a very human need to say something.

But brands are not humans.

Even though the people who staff accounts have the best intentions, creating a post in the vain of “We Remember…” or “Our thoughts are with…” is inappropriate. People are turning to each other for comfort, for news outlets for coverage. They are not turning to consumer package goods or B2B companies for solace.

In the aftermath of tragedy, brand posts do two things:

  • Clutter up newsfeeds when people are looking for instant information.
  • Give the perception that a brand is leveraging a tragedy for their own benefit.

So, if you manage social media for brands what should you do? Halt all posts, especially in the hours after the tragic event. By staying quiet, your brand will be doing something important- giving people space to find news, connect and find solace in their friends.

2 Responses to “In the Wake of Tragedy What Should Brands on Social Do? Be Quiet.”

  1. You hit the naill on the head and called it perfectly. It's completely disingenuous for a brand to make the cliche statements of the sort of "our thoughts/prayers are with you...". Ruelala sent an email yesterday stating that, Boston being their hometown, they were holding a moment of silence instead of a morning sale. But then that sentiment was negated by the evening sale email arriving as if nothing happened. Though, as a brand, these situations are confusing. It's almost a "damned if you do, damned if you don't". How do you "pay your respects" while still conduct business because, well, life/business goes on... Still, on the social channels, do stay quiet. That's probably the best show of respect.

  2. I live and work in Boston and it's strange. How do you get back to "life as usual" in the aftermath of such an event? Are you supposed to close up shop entirely? If so for how long? And when are you allowed to open your door again? I don't know if there is a right answer to that question.

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