Social media is highly effective in sharing information about tragic events. Whether it’s an earthquake in Japan or a school shooting in America, people around the globe instantaneously learn about these horrific events and use social media to share information and opinions.
The use of social media during catastrophic events is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it’s extremely beneficial in that it allows the quick and wide spread dissipation of information. It also helps to build community as people around the world show support for the victims. However, social media is also abused in these circumstances as individuals and businesses use it to spread hateful opinions, incorrect information and promote selfish goals.
It is of vital importance that business know how to respond to such highly publicized, highly tragic events in a respectful and helpful way. Here are some suggestions for things you should and shouldn’t do in light of tragic events.
Do share inspiration quotes or thoughts. Many business and individuals will want to show their support and encouragement, but won’t know what to say. In these cases, an inspirational quote, song lyric or simply saying “our thoughts are with you” can be an appropriate response.
Don’t feel like you HAVE to say something. Your business does not have to add to the influx of social media noise that follows a tragedy. If you don’t feel you have anything significant or helpful to the conversation, then staying silent can be just as respectful as posting. However, if you are going to stay silent about the tragedy, stay silent about your business as well. The big product announcement you had planned can wait until tomorrow.
Do share valuable information. Right after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, I noticed a lot of business and individuals sharing news articles, information about how to contact loved ones, and updates on which airlines and hotels were waiving cancellation fees. These posts don’t simply add to the noise, but give valuable information to those who need it most.
Don’t forget to check your sources. Even credible news sources sometimes get the story wrong. Before posting information, make sure it has been verified by multiple credible sources. Make it your responsibility to weed through the rumor and speculation and only pass on the most legitimate information to your fans and followers.
Do add your personal story to the conversation. You may find that your or someone in your company has a personal connection to the tragedy. If you are comfortable doing so, it may be appropriate to share the story via social media and/or the blog. Share out of the desire to connect emotionally with people struggling through tragic events, not out of the desire to draw attention to yourself or your company.
Don’t use tragedy to promote your business, religion or personal agenda. In 2011, a well known clothing company used the riots in Cairo Egypt to promote their spring line over Twitter. Many people reprimanded the company for being so insensitive.
Widespread tragic events are, unfortunately, becoming a part of our lives more and more. Take a moment to sit down with coworkers and establish a plan for how your company is going to respond socially to the next tragedy.