How To Handle Social Media When Tragedy Hits The Headlines And Our Hearts

It’s the start of your morning. You open up your computer to get ready for the day. Social media content is scheduled. A marketing campaign is ready to be launched.

And then your heart drops: A devastating hashtag is trending and breaking news is flooding social media.

Social media marketers are quickly thrown into a strange situation.

Our job is to help people fall in love with a brand, trust a brand, and ultimately buy from a brand.

But, social media is a sacred place for many. It’s the place where people voice their opinions, share their love, happiness, joy, fear – and devastation.

When tragedy strikes, social media is where we go to feel connected. Brands are entering these delicate conversations and this emotional space.

Ultimately, brands are placing a marketing objective into the social streams of where people find connection and feeling.

That can be a slippery slope.

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Social media marketers are given the keys to a brand’s voice – and it’s our duty to maneuver this weird space between heartfelt connection and marketing. It’s a responsibility we shouldn’t take lightly.

Tragic situations send us into a strange predicament:

Do you cancel all content and go dark?

Do you put a heartfelt statement out?

Do you go on as normal – even if your content is positive – because maybe that’s what the world needs?

Here’s the thing, though. One size does not fit all. There is no standard answer. Your brand’s voice is unique.


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But here are some important questions to ask yourself if you’re a leader in your organization:

  1. Is the person managing our social content prepared to speak on behalf of our brand during a tragedy? Are they in tune enough with our brand’s voice to know how to quickly make the decision on how to approach?
  2. If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘maybe’, how can we help this person be prepared to understand our brand’s voice? What conversations should we be having with them? What processes should be put in place?
  3. Who ultimately has the say in what to do? If I see a post I don’t agree with, is it my judgement call to delete? How can we discuss this as a team?

Social media is all about thinking on your feet and knowing what feels right in each situation.

There’s not supposed to be a copy and paste response – really for anything in social media – but especially not in a situation that is surrounded by emotion.

Only you and your team are going to feel the pulse and heart of your brand – and what feels most appropriate in specific circumstances.

Go get cozy with your brand and learn what its heart is all about.

There ARE a few standard steps you’ll want to take when a tragedy hits:

  • Quickly review your content calendars and double check if anything is scheduled to be posted. Reschedule or pause until you have time to consider your options of what feels right.
  • Consider where your fans are located. Did tragedy strike close to home for a large portion of your audience? Will it perhaps impact them differently?
  • Take it to Twitter to listen: devote some time to peruse through your tweet stream and take a gander on the sentiment of your fans and the hashtag topics related to your brand. Are people feeling hopeful? Are people in shock and consumed by the situation? Check back frequently throughout the day because it can change quickly.

Social media gives us all this beautiful opportunity to be part of a community and to feel connected with one another.

It sometimes amazes me that brands are even invited to be part of these communities.

But it should be done with great care, heart and awareness that we are entering these precious conversations and feelings.

About Cierra Savatgy-King: Cierra is founder of Pigtail Media, a boutique social media marketing firm for hospitality, travel and entertainment brands. She helps build strategies, manage content and train teams, helping clients tame the massive beast of social media.  See what clients have said.

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