September 11 & Social Media

What’s the fastest way for your business to screw up on social media? There are probably a number of good answers to that, but if you guessed “post something inappropriate on 9/11,” you’d have my vote.

Any time there is a tragedy or a solemn day of remembrance, there is a potential risk for your brand.

A savvy marketer will help guide you through some common pitfalls for social media posting on a day like today, but what about when there is a tragedy happening in real time?

Here are some tips on navigating your company’s social media while avoiding risk.

  1. Pause all upcoming posts. Automated posting services are a wonderful tool, but autopilot can be a curse when your tongue-in-cheek #TBT post launches right after the news breaks about a somber event.
  2. Take a breath. Don’t post immediately. There’s a callous rush to be among the first to respond to an event. Unless you’re a news agency; this is an unnecessary risk for you. Take a break. Feel your emotions, but keep them separate from the brand.
  3. Review your branding documents. Is there a policy in place about responding to an event like this? How would your brand voice speak about it? Talk to management. Listen to how your co-workers are handling it. Explore what your brand demographic is saying.
  4. Choose your course of action. You can always opt not to post. Evaluate the potential response from your fan base for all of your options. Ensure you have your team’s approval on whatever course you choose.
  5. Plan to fail. Even the most sincere post can trigger offense in someone. Not posting at all can also be a problem for some brand fans – “Hey, aren’t you guys going to say anything about this?!” Decide how you’ll handle the potential positive and negative responses and inform your team.

For days like today, you have the advantage of time on your side. You can consider how your brand would respond and make a plan. Some options might be:

  • “Going Dark” – no posts at all
  • “Ops Normal” – posting like normal, no recognition of the day
  • Posting a remembrance or acknowledgement – and that’s all
  • Posting a hybrid schedule – tasteful remembrance/acknowledgement and moving on to your regular posts later in the day

There is no right solution for every brand and every scenario. My customers chose a variety of options and I handled it for them. My best advice? Simply know your brand and know your fans. Understand what they need to see from you and respond without violating your brand’s voice. Use my five steps and you will hopefully avoid controversy and protect your brand’s reputation.

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