Social Media Strategies in the Aftermath of Disasters


Following tragic events like the Boston bombings, Newtown shooting, or Aurora massacre, it’s imperative to be mindful and cautious about how to react on your business’ social media accounts. But what is the most appropriate action to take in these situations? Should businesses lie low on social media channels so the relevant news stories can educate the public? Should they share the news stories? Send their thoughts and prayers? We’ve developed a checklist to follow after an event like this occurs.

● Double-check earlier posts: Go back through all scheduled content and make sure that nothing could be perceived as controversial or insensitive. Delete or alter anything that could be taken the wrong way. For a great example of what not to do, check out what the NRA tweeted, totally unaware of what was going on, the morning after the Aurora massacre.

● Revisit pending posts: You also need to be mindful of the type of content that you post in the days following a tragic event. Avoid posting sad stories, especially if they don't relate to the tragedy at hand -- people tend to dislike content that appears to upstage the disaster that’s on everyone’s minds.

● Use related hashtags wisely: Want to use a hashtag that you're not familiar with? You should probably look it up before you use it! A CelebBoutique social media writer posted a highly insensitive tweet about the #Aurora trending hashtag in reference to a Kim Kardashian dress that was for sale on their website.

● Let news outlets report the news: Don't post gory photos from the event -- leave this to the news outlets. You don't want to post sensational content - it can look tacky coming from your business. Instead, stick with text updates, such as quotes conveying peace and understanding or simple photos that show solidarity. Use your own discretion. If you decide to post about a tragedy, wait until at least a few hours after, once the facts come out and the confusion dies down. News outlets may have jumped to conclusions about what happened, and you might end up spreading rumors.

● When in doubt, don’t post: Following a disaster, the nation’s thoughts will be fixed on the tragedy. If you are unsure of whether or not to post, there’s no harm in skipping updates for the day. It’s unlikely that anyone will notice your absence, and the lack of a post won’t upset your followers; an ill-timed or poorly thought out post will.

● Help, if you can: For certain tragedies, especially natural disasters, you can sometimes leverage your company’s influence and followers to provide assistance to those affected. For instance, following the Joplin tornado in 2011, doggyloot replaced one of its regular sales with a fundraiser for the animals displaced by the destruction and raised several thousand dollars in donations. If possible or appropriate, do something similar to rally your own followers around victims and their families.

Jeff Eckerling is an experienced e-commerce executive and entrepreneur. He joined doggyloot as the CEO in May 2012. Before joining doggyloot, Eckerling was the CEO and co-founder of BonVoyou, a flash-sale travel site acquired by HauteLook (acquired by Nordstrom). Prior to BonVoyou, Eckerling was part of the pre-launch team at Orbitz and spend nine years in a variety of managerial roles.

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