Five Rules for Social Media Brand Management During a National Crisis

Before I get too far into this topic, I want to say that my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon.  It was and is the definition of senseless violence.

social mediaIt’s a very modern thing, and unfortunately it’s happened lately with increasing frequency — our entire nation mourning via social media.  The latest incident was the bombing at the Boston Marathon.  If you went on Facebook or Twitter yesterday afternoon, the vast majority of the posts you saw were expressing condolences or passing along details of what happened.

Unfortunately, what you also saw mixed with the heartfelt and personal messages of shock and grief were branded messages that had nothing at all to do with the horrifying events of the day.  The companies behind those messages either weren’t thinking when they posted them, or scheduled them hours or even days in advance and then walked away.

How bad and damaging these non sequitur posts are is up for debate.  Peter Shankman, one of the true gurus (although he may hate that word) of social media, is particularly bothered by them and thinks they’re significantly damaging to a brand when they happen.  He would most likely believe that this blog post is unnecessary as social media managers should know better by now.  But, obviously if it’s still happening then more education is needed.  That’s why I present my Five Rules for Social Media Brand Management During a National Crisis:

  1. Pay attention. You can’t afford to go into a rabbit hole and not pay attention to the news. Knowing what’s going on in the world is part of the job of a social media manager.
  2. It’s okay to be personal.  Posting a short and very concise message of sympathy for the victims is not only okay, it reminds your audience that your brand is made up of people.  Be very careful in the wording, however, and make it genuine. 
  3. Shut down.  Remove all non-relevant scheduled Tweets and Facebook posts, and stow them away for another day.  Not only will no one pay attention to them, continuing with “business as usual” may actually harm your brand as your audience may see you as not caring.  The exception to this rule is if your company has a personal connection to the tragedy.  Obviously, posting (for example) that the team your firm put together to run in the race is safe and sound is different than a branded message.
  4. Adhere to the 24-hour rule. Other than a short condolence message, it’s best to stay “dark” with branded messages on social media for at least a day after the incident breaks.  When you return to normalcy is a judgement call, but 24 hours should be the minimum.
  5. Let common sense be your guide. An hour or two before the Newtown school shooting, I posted a silly picture for “Friday fun” on a client’s Facebook page.  An hour or two after the news broke, I was planning to post a weekly winner in a contest we were running.  When I heard about the shooting, I not only scrapped the contest winner post, I also deleted the silly picture, as it no longer seemed appropriate.  In the end, if it doesn’t feel right then delete it or don’t do it in the first place.

And, a bonus: Help.  If your business is in a position to give help to victims or families, obviously give it but don’t brag about it. That’s not social media savvy … it’s just being good people.

What do you think? Am I missing a rule that should be included?

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2 Responses on “Five Rules for Social Media Brand Management During a National Crisis

  1. Good post. Sad we still need it…

    1. Steve Mullen says:

      Thanks, Peter. I appreciate it!

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