Social Media During the Face of Disaster

In the wake of the devastating losses in both Boston and West, Texas, recently, scores of people flocked to Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-the-minute news, post messages of support for victims and survivors and vent their frustrations.

Companies and business owners should not wait until a disaster strikes to prepare employees, specifically social media administrators, on how to use, or not use, social media during a time of crisis.

The way that a company manages their brand image during a national disaster is important. Here are five do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

1.) Turn off all automated Tweets and review any pre-planned posts.

Maybe your company has a strategic social media plan with posts or tweets that have been pre-determined for weeks. Take a second look at those posts and think about whether or not those messages may come across as insensitive or tactless. You don’t want those messages received by a grieving community.

2.) Don’t make big announcements.

Your announcement most likely will be overlooked while all eyes are on breaking news coverage, and if it isn’t overlooked, you don’t want your new product or “big news” to be forever branded with a time of distress and mourning.

3.) Don’t speculate.

In journalism, it’s crucial to get information to the people. Get it right, and get it first. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen in that order.

Last year as the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, unfolded, in a race to be the first news source with the identity of the person who fatally shot 26 children and staff, reporters falsely identified the shooter. This misinformation brought down a hailstorm of hate and threats of violence on an innocent man.

Not only can things like that ruin a person’s reputation, but it can also ruin a company’s reputation with their clients.

Bottom line: Wait for confirmation before sharing a news story.

4.) Post messages of support. 

Sometimes it’s best to avoid the “negative nancy” frame of mind and post a message of support. Instead of dwelling on the negatives and perpetuating the grief, take stand of support.

5.) Market your product OR address the crisis, but not at the same time.

Whether you are offering condolences or making a pledge to offer financial assistance, make sure that your message is genuine and cannot not be viewed as a means to financial gain. As the Boston Marathon horror unfolded, Epicurious’ provided an example of what NOT to do.

It is an unfortunate reality that, at some point, there will be another tragedy to contend with. Whether it’s a natural disaster or an act of terrorism, it’s best to always be prepared.

If you’re looking for more tricks of the trade, see how esd takes social media to the next level.

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