As a woman who was born and raised in the great city of Boston, there are no words that can accurately summarize my emotions after hearing and seeing yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon. The images and first person accounts that were shared will forever remain in my heart – a horrific incident that hit way too close to home.
But, it’s tragic events like these that I find interesting within my own social space. Personally, I saw friends tweeting #prayforboston within the first few minutes after the story broke and as expected, my Facebook wall was slammed with posts expressing extreme sadness and anger toward those responsible. But professionally speaking, how does an event like 9/11, the Newtown shooting or the Boston bombings effect larger brands on social platforms?
For once, they make brands go silent.
Although there is some debate around what a major brand should do on social during/after a large tragedy, a brand’s reasoning for going quiet is done with both good intentions and a bit of selfishness. On one side, we recognize the loss and sadness associated with the life-changing event. Our content simply wouldn’t make sense to share, nor would it resonate with fans, especially during a time when the nation is grieving. On the other hand, some brands believe in posting consistency with a main goal of beating Facebook’s EdgeRank and showing up higher than competitors within newsfeeds — but, no one really wants to be the one brand actively posting in a newsfeed filled with content surrounding a tragedy. For those brands that saw this as an opportunity – or accidentally had posts pre-scheduled to go live during this time frame – many were met with a negative backlash from fans and non-fans alike for being insensitive.
From a community manager of a few large brands, it’s often the safest decision to cease all social engagement until a 24 hour period of bereavement has been allowed. Unless you have a meaningful and direct connection to the tragedy, this means no posting, no tweeting, no Instagraming and more. Yes, a brand’s messaging will be not top of mind for fans for a day or two, but this overall respect for the emotions of fans will resonate louder than a product-centric post.
Although you may not see every brand following this recommendation, see if you notice those that do. Then, respect them a bit more for giving fans their space during this terrible time.
What do you think is the appropriate move for brands after a national tragedy?