Social Media

A number of normally savvy social business marketers were caught flatfooted after the Boston Marathon bombing. Perhaps not watching the real-time activity in their news feed, businesses went on with scheduled tweets and other posts being published automatically, without any thought as to the breaking news surrounding their marketing message.

Digital marketing guru Guy Kawasaki got flamed for his response when questioned about the appropriateness of his apparent robo-tweeting after the bombing. Suddenly, in the aftermath of a catastrophic national news event, business as usual seemed… well, unseemly.

What To Do?

Brand managers and marketing directors don’t quite know what to do after a natural disaster or other tragic occurrence. Whether it’s national or local in scope, it’s natural to want to comfort the grieving. But knowing what to say to friends and family who are in shock or mourning is difficult enough. Crafting the right words into a Facebook post or tweet for untold numbers of people seeking solace is next to impossible.

Respectful Silence

Although the impulse to console is commendable, it can be misinterpreted when coming from a company. The best response social brands can make following a tragic occurrence is often simply respectful silence. Here’s why:

Despite the best of intentions, brand messages of sympathy, solidarity, or even charity can unwittingly come off as craven attempts to capitalize on tragedy. On top of that, the sudden influx of corporate condolences only serves to clog up newsfeeds. People in such situations are not seeking consolation from a brand. Instead, they’re using social networks to connect with loved ones and get breaking news updates.

Context is also critical: be conscious of the placement of your ads, billboards, and editorial content. If you have scheduled tweets and other social posts, just put them on hold for a while, at least in the hours immediately following an untimely event.

When Is It Safe To Do Business?

How long you maintain your marketing silence is a judgment call only you can make. But suffice it to say, someone will probably let you know if two hours after a horrific tragedy seems too soon to go back to business as usual.


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MarketingTango is the leading online resource for integrated marketing. The blog covers a wide range of marketing tactics and their place in an integrated marketing strategy. Regular postings will include articles, ideas, tips, and real-world solutions to help companies of all sizes achieve their business objectives.