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Reflecting on Paris: Social media best practices during tragedy

By Julie Miller

15549659_sLate Friday night, when gunfire and blasts took the lives of at least 128 people in Paris, the world turned to social media for updates on the tumultuous situation. Among the tweets of condolence, sadness and worry, there was the occasional corporate tweet about products, the sporadic blogger pushing his posts and some of the usual whimsical content you find on Twitter.

While social media is a fun way to connect with consumers and prospects, it’s also a source for news and community-building during times of tragedy. And during those times of tragedy, companies should consider how their business-as-usual posts might be insensitive. Here are some tips on managing your social media during crises.

Shut down the scheduled posts

Your social media posts are often scheduled ahead of time, especially on the weekends. This is fine, but have someone from your team on duty to postpone posts in the case of a crisis. Even if the post isn’t glaringly insensitive in nature, it’s best to keep mum.

Recognize the situation appropriately

If a tragedy hits close to home for an organization, it is okay to show the organization’s genuine support via social media. Getting in on the conversation surrounding a tragedy should never be motivated by gaining recognition for the company. In this scenario, never tweet by using a hashtag related to the tragedy just to gain recognition for yourself. Never combine your sympathetic post with a marketing message. It will look bad, and you’ll probably be called out for it.

Know when you’re clear

You don’t need to shut down your social media efforts long – just until people have answers about the situation. In the case of Paris, midday Saturday would have been an appropriate time to reactivate your social media plan, while still remaining conscious of insensitive language. Read and question every post carefully.

The dialogue continues

Over the weekend, social media remained a powerful tool to help in coping with this tragedy, from providing safety checks via Facebook to showing support through French-themed profile photos. This support has united many, but has also given rise to questions regarding why other areas that have also recently experienced terrorist attacks (Beirut, for example) do not receive the same type of social media support Paris has.  

The dialogue on social media surrounding Paris goes to show its impact on people around the globe. Companies who are joining in the dialogue, whether they are leading some of it, like Facebook is, or they are contributing to it via Twitter, must be strategic every step of the way to avoid controversy. Don’t be haphazard when managing social media. Be strategic, be vigilant and follow best practices.

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JulieMillerJulie Miller is a marketing and communications professional with more than seven years of experience in the industry. She primarily works in the technology and education sectors and specializes in digital marketing and communications.




Featured image: 123rf.com

Topics: public relations, crisis communications, shared media

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