A Social Media Guide to Handling Tragedy

Social Media Policy sm white Here I sit watching the Twitter feed for the most recent active shooter tragedy in San Bernardino, CA, just one week after the Paris and Colorado Springs tragedies. At KLA Group, we manage many clients’ social media accounts as well as our own. With the unfortunate, consistent world tragedies, I have been forced to consider the appropriate approach to social media during the height of such situations.

To simply ignore these tragedies isn’t acceptable.

They are too frequent, and social media is too dynamic. People talk about what’s happening, even while they have an automatic stream of comments running through applications such as HootSuite, Unified Inbox and rFactr.

If you ignore these tragedies, you may be perceived as oblivious to current events, uncaring or even too business-focused. Your target market’s perception of your company is a key influencer in the sales process. Your social media activity gives them insight into the culture and beliefs of your organization.

You must have a response, even if your response is silence.

Consider what your social media policy is in the wake of a tragedy. I consulted with Ken Herron, a fellow social media expert, and adopted his plan for our clients. Feel free to adopt it for your company.

The Social Media Guide to Handling Tragedy
Where there is a tragedy in the world resulting in significant loss of life:

  1. Immediately pause all social commenting for up to 24 hours depending upon the scope of the tragedy and until we know the full situation. In an extreme tragedy, we may need to pause for longer than 24 hours.
  2. Resume social commenting gradually after 24 hours. For the first 48 hours, avoid any comments that could be misconstrued. Avoid aggressive advertising and comments that may be interpreted as insensitive.
  3. Use a neutral comment to express sympathy to the people concerned. For example: “Our thoughts go out to our followers, and all their friends and families impacted by the Paris events.”
  4. Avoid using any hashtags that appear as if we are trying to leverage the tragedy to our advantage. This isn’t the time to attempt to build followers.
  5. Share links to two mainstream, credible relief organizations for very significant tragedies when your followers may want to provide support but be uncertain how to do it. We favor UMCOR and the Red Cross, but also defer to our clients’ preferred organizations. The key is to recommend organizations that you know are credible.

I spent the afternoon sending a personal email to each of our social media clients advising them on this process change. I’m disappointed to have to do it, but, I can’t ignore how important it is to have a different type of disaster plan in place for today’s social world. You can’t ignore it either.

Unfortunately the rate of tragedies doesn’t appear to be declining and this is a sensitive issue. If you want to discuss your policy privately, send me an email and we’ll set up a call.

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