Unfortunately we live in a world where disasters and tragedies sometimes happen. This was certainly the case yesterday when several people were injured and killed during the Boston Marathon when 2 bombs exploded near the finish line. In these circumstances, it seems that a lot of business owners and brands do not know exactly how to react to such a tragedy online in a respectful and professional manner. For example, recipe website, Epicurious, sent out these tweets soon after the Boston Marathon explosions:
Even though these tweets are not offensive, they are certainly distasteful considering that the company is taking advantage of a tragic situation where people were killed. People have lost their lives today just by cheering on their loved ones in a race and the cure for that is a bowl of breakfast energy? Sigh.
Even though social media marketing is still fairly new to us, the way a business reacts to a tragedy of this sort should honestly be common sense. Use your best judgement on how you would want a business (large or small) to speak to you, the consumer, during a sensitive time. It seems now that most will post condolences after a matter like this: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims families and those affected by the tragic happenings at the Boston Marathon today." I would agree that this response is a "safe" way to go if you feel that you MUST make any sort of statement. But before you do, think of why you feel like you need to make that statement at all? Maybe your company really does want your fans and customers to know that you care (because I'm sure you do) but does it make much of a difference when every single brand is doing the same at the same time? It's something to think about...
Most people are also offended by tweets and posts immediately after a crisis that clearly have nothing to do with the tragedy at all. It's so bizarre to see businesses post things during a crisis that signify business is still operating as usual. In times like these, most people want to stop to reflect about the events unfolding. They don't want to be sold to. Sometimes, though, this is usually a clear indication that the business has "auto-scheduled" tweets or posts in advance to make it easier for them to manage their social media marketing. In best practice, it is imperative that any social media manager or company turn off all scheduled posts for the time of the crisis as to not accidentally offend. The chances of a tweet with the ironically wrong wording at that time could almost ruin a brand.
My advice would be to choose your words carefully when posting to social media networks (if at all) after a tragedy. DO NOT use the situation to promote your company or product. Do not make jokes and choose your time wisely. Think before your type and take it as seriously as you would as a respectful individual.
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