It's heartbreaking. There's been another mass shooting and many have lost their lives in Las Vegas. Last night was the first time I've witnessed an ongoing terror attack that was livestreamed by everyday people. When LVPD tweeted to ask that eyewitnesses not share their locations or tactics, as that could cause more danger to law enforcement and victims, it was a startling realization for me—social media could be as damaging as it is helpful in times of crisis. I'm truly sorry for everyone affected by the terrorism on Sunday night.
As more brands utilize social media marketing on a daily basis, it's important to adhere to some basic rules. We're responsible for what we share and when we post. The following are rules for brands and companies to adhere to in times of crisis:
1. Be Aware
You should be plugged into current events at all times. This is a necessity for any good social media manager, especially as it relates to Real Time Marketing opportunities. This is step 1. Know what's going on in the world.
2. Take A Time Out
If any of your scheduled posts aren't relevant, reschedule them. Pause. Layoff. No one is going to be working at full capacity in the wake of national terrorism. Not only that, but your brand will be perceived as inconsiderate for attempting to maintain "business as usual" on a day when many are grieving. The only exception to this rule is if your company is directly connected to the tragedy and you're being helpful.
Is your organization in a position to help those affected? Whether it's providing access to medical care, or food, or shelter, by all means, utilize your social channels and assist if you can. Share hotlines and information that will mobilize your followers.
4. Be Real
If you're going to post something, make sure it's genuine and kind. Short and concise, a message of sympathy for the victims is what any good person would do. Your brand's social channels exist because people are managing it to communicate with other people. Be human and personal.
There's an unspoken 24 hour rule that most with-it brands follow when it comes to their own branded messaging. After a short message of condolence, you probably don't need to say anything else. A lot of PR agencies will wait 48 hours before pitching again, out of respect for others. Use your own judgement to decide when exactly you get back on track. Do you really think it's going to be helpful if you proceed with your product launch, anyway? (Doubt it.)
6. Review & Revise
Did you post a goofy meme a few hours before the incident transpired? Well, it's probably in poor taste now. Were you going to announce a sweepstakes winner? They can wait a day or two. It's more than okay to delete any content that retrospectively seems tone deaf or to move your schedule around. Having empathy and being a brand that values people will have a lot more power for your long-term visibility than a happy contest winner.
What Not To Do
Do NOT co-opt any hashtags that are used in conjunction with a tragedy. Some people are searching those tags to find loved ones or sharing life-saving information. It's a really bad look to try and tap into that conversation for your own benefit. And Twitter does not forget. Also, it's just in poor taste.