Be Extra Sensitive and Helpful When Using Social Media Amidst Tragedies
What should have been a day of jubilance and celebration suddenly turned tragic when 2 bombs went off on Monday right at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The blast claimed at least 3 lives, including one of an 8-year old boy, and left over 150 people injured.
At the time of writing this, the authorities are still trying to get to the bottom of this terrible incident, and are calling out to the public for any information that would lead them to those responsible.
What happened in Boston was catastrophic and there are no words that can fully describe the terror that took place. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy, and all of us here at FullTraffic are offering our prayers and support to all the victims.
We would also like to take this opportunity to reach out to our fellow Internet brands to send a gentle reminder to exercise mindfulness and sensitivity in the online world. Social media is a powerful tool and it’s during times like these that people really tune in, so be sure to use it wisely.
If you’re using social media to promote your company or spread the word about your brand, do take a few moments to do some of the things below to acknowledge what happened and be sensitive and helpful towards those affected.
Delete or move scheduled posts - HootSuite, Buffer, and other tools that allow us to schedule social media posts are certainly convenient, but that doesn’t mean that you can simple “set ‘em then forget ‘em.”
Whenever you get wind of breaking news about a horrific incident, go back to your social calendar and see if you can delete or move your pre-scheduled posts to other slots. There’s nothing more awkward and insensitive than a clueless brand that posts a happy and cute tweet amidst a tragedy. Don’t be that company.
Always be mindful of current events so you can broadcast your messages accordingly.
Verify information before spreading the word - When unexpected incidents suddenly take place, people would naturally clamor for answers and information. And while it may be tempting to be as informative as you can by spreading the latest news about an incident, don’t do it unless you have completely verified the source. Remember that being first isn’t as important as being right. Spreading false or misleading information can do more harm than good, so avoid it at all costs.
In fact, you may want to refrain from posting news developments altogether. Unless you’re a media outlet or news blog, you don’t have to share story developments. Just post a heartfelt message, and maybe point people in the right resources and just leave it at that. It isn’t your company’s job to broadcast news. That’s what the media is for.
Stick to credible charities - Speaking of verifying sources, the same rule applies when it comes to dealing with charities. Unfortunate events often trigger philanthropic actions, and organizations will usually establish a special fund to help the victims of a specific tragedy.
But be wary of some of these charities. As PandoDaily noted, there are also those who take advantage of the situation by creating fake charities to generate engagement and followers. For instance, during the Sandy Hook shooting, accounts such as @CTNewtown and @_Pray4Newtown sprouted out on Twitter claiming that they will donate money to the cause for every Retweet they get. But as the tech blog put it, “neither account offered any assurances or proof that the ploy was anything more than a cheap grab for followers.”
But it does look like netizens are a little bit wiser now. According to PandoDaily, on the day of the Boston bombing, an account named @_bostonmarathon claimed to be doing charity work for the victims. And while it did get numerous re-tweets, “it was also met with an overwhelming and relatively swift chorus of blocks and spam reports that resulted in its suspension within about an hour of the time it began grabbing those ill-gotten Retweets.”
Let this be a lesson to those who wish to participate in charitable causes or those who are spreading the word about said causes. Giving to those in need is certainly a noble thing to do, but make sure that your efforts are going to the right places.
Only support verified foundations and charities. Again, turn to official sources to see which ones are legit.
Don’t be a hater - Dreadful incidents can certainly stir up people’s emotions and get them all worked up. And while it’s normal to be angry and feel the need to lash out, it certainly isn’t helpful, especially online. Never post hateful messages on your accounts, no matter how tempting it may be.
Publishing angry status messages or tweets will only make the situation worse. It’s not going to make other people feel better, and it’s only going to make your company look bad. If you’re going to comment on a situation, go about it in a civil manner. You can certainly express your emotions but only do so using a composed, dignified, and sensitive approach.
Don’t turn it into a business opportunity - Constantly seizing opportunities is one of the things that propel businesses and people to success. However, that doesn’t mean that you should grab every media or business opportunity that comes your way.
Avoid creating sales or promos around unfortunate events, unless you want to end up like Gap or American Apparel, which received tons of backlash after trying to capitalize on Hurricane Sandy.
Remember, sensitivity and mindfulness are key during situations like these, so act or react accordingly.
Spread hope - While horrific events bring out the worst in people, don’t forget that they can also uncover some of the most heroic and selfless qualities of others. Remember that there will always be people who will rush in to lend a helping hand and that there will always be individuals who will risk their lives to save others. Focus on these people. Spread their stories to strengthen and give hope to others. During tragic times, it’s these uplifting tales that can keep us going so spread the positive word and remind others that humanity isn’t all that bad.