02 Jun Social Media Communications in the Face of Tragedy

Last week’s blog gave our readers a few hints on how to improve their social media communication in 2016: have you been more conscious of what you post by sticking to some of our suggested resolutions?

While it’s almost redundant to say, we can’t emphasize enough just how indispensable social media is to any successful company’s marketing mix: Fortune 500s with household name recognition, start-ups ready to unleash the next groundbreaking idea, and the local eatery hosting a pop-up at a farmer’s market all rely on strategically planned social media messages to communicate with their audience and grow their business.

But what happens when it’s not just about you or your business anymore? What happens when there are bigger things on people’s minds? Specifically, what if tragedy strikes and the world is captivated by the issue at hand?

Horrific tragedies like the terrorist attacks in Paris or the global battle against ISIS have spurred an unexpected role by social media: breaking news often appears on Twitter before mainstream outlets and specific hashtags consolidate the information being put out; Facebook enabled a check-in function to verify individuals in Paris’ safety; millions of people opted to filter their profile pictures with the French flag to show their solidarity with those affected and denounce the brutality of those responsible. While hashtags and photo filters may not seem significant, they send a message and matter on a global level.

The question now is do you modify your social media communication in light of a crisis? And if so, how? As a business owner or leader, you can’t (and shouldn’t) drop everything you’re doing: you still have employees with families, clients, and partners who rely on you to take care of. However, it does show compassion and respect to acknowledge current events as they unfold. It’s a delicate matter: while you don’t want to appear insensitive or oblivious by not mentioning them in your social media communications, you also don’t want to be dramatic, exploitative, or insincere.

It seems callous to worry about your social media correspondence in the face of tragedy. It seems selfish to ponder how the wrong message could hurt your business when others are enduring the darkest hours of their lives. It’s an uncomfortable topic, no doubt. However, the only thing worse than having this conversation would be to not have this conversation. One thing is clear: how a person or a company responds to heartbreaking events matters. In fact, you can do good by expressing your sympathy, showing your support, and taking active measures to help alleviate the situation through your response.

A helpful article by Moz’s community manager Erica McGillivray discusses the matter in detail and outlines do’s and don’ts. Again, it’s an awkward subject matter, but as a business owner or social media expert, you’ll want to read it. The more you know, the better you’ll be.