Social Media Responsibility During Times of Crisis

Today another unthinkable act happened in America as we witnessed the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  And, while we won’t know what caused these explosions for quite some time, all signs point to a possible act of terrorism.

Breaking news came first via Twitter and the AP wire, then finally from outlets like Facebook and television.  First responders jumped into action, journalists tried to make sense of what they were seeing to report to the masses, Americans took to social media to find out more.

The first photos of bloodshed and shrapnel came across the television screen and Twitter quickly.  We saw images of Americans and foreigners alike – all who had worked hard to qualify for this race – in shock and tears as they tried to find loved ones and tried to make sense of it all as they crossed the finish line.

Like many Americans, we went straight to Twitter to find out the latest and to express our shock over what had just happened.  As we went to our feeds we saw people uniting, praying, talking about how they were shocked over the events.  We also saw tweets from brands – some very large brands and social media gurus themselves – seemingly unaffected by the tragedy.

Why?  Had they not heard the news? Were their wi-fi networks broken?  Was their Twitter account hacked?  How could this be?

Two words: scheduled tweets.

Scheduled tweets are the dirty little secret in the social media world of mid and large sized brands.  Many businesses use applications like HootSuite or Tweetdeck to write tweets and Facebook posts days in advance to go out at scheduled times.

Sure, this helps productivity and keeps a social media presence up – which is indeed important – but at what cost?

In times of tragedy a scheduled tweet could be the kiss of death for a brand.  Not only do they come across as insensitive to most consumers – they can also have big ramifications if you are sending out a tweet that unknowingly has inappropriate language.  (For example: tweeting “Getting ready to blow up this photo shoot with a client today!” during a bombing.  Um, yeah, that’s not good.)

Brands must think about their social media practices and have a policy in place for days like today.  Not only should they acknowledge the tragedy, they should put their scheduled tweets on hiatus until the situation has passed.

In today’s world social media has taken the place of old school PR in many ways.  This is how brands interact with their consumers.  Do you want your consumers to think you don’t care about those who were maimed or dead on Boston?  Yeah, we didn’t think so.  We all need to exercise social media responsibility in times of crisis and big box brands (and especially social media gurus) are no exception.

So, let’s all make sure these scheduled tweets don’t happen during a crisis again, shall we?  And, to Boston – we are praying for you and everyone who was affected by this horrible tragedy.  Our hearts and prayers are with you tonight.

Photo courtesy of @theoriginalwak