Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Web Secret #262: Social Media Marketing in Times of Tragedy

In my non iWebU life, I am the web editor for an international professional association.

This means that every day, several PR companies send me e-mails that say, "Please publish my article on "______________." Sample recent submission: "GET FROM THE BEDROOM TO THE BOARDROOM - How to use your skills in sex and dating to score your dream job."

You can't make this stuff up.

So it is rare, and I mean VERY rare, to get an appropriate article from a PR firm. But there are always exceptions and  "Social Media Marketing in Times of Tragedy" (author Marsha Friedman,) is one of them.

Marsha asks:

"If you’re using social media for marketing, what should you say following a tragedy like the deadly blasts at the Boston Marathon on April 15?

The horrific elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn.?

The October storm that took lives and devastated communities across the Northeast?"

Her answer: "Sometimes, nothing at all."

She goes on to point out: "The age of digital marketing brings with it new challenges, including how to respond during a national tragedy. Remember, as recently as Sept. 11, 2001, we had no MySpace, much less Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Except for email, no vehicle for delivering instantaneous marketing messages existed. After 9/11, one of the most painful days in American memory, most of us had time to pause, reflect and put on hold print, radio and TV marketing campaigns that might be viewed as inappropriate or offensive."

So then when do you tie – or not  - a marketing message into the news of the day?

Marsha responds: "Usually, simply applying your own sense of decency and good taste can help you avoid a blunder. Consider American Apparel’s notorious “Hurricane Sandy Sale – in case you’re bored during the storm,” advertised as tens of thousands of people endured freezing temperatures without power."

Here are her suggestions for do’s and don’ts:

"Can you be helpful? Hours after the blasts in Boston, with cell phone service out in the city and family and friends desperately trying to connect with loved ones, launched “Person Finder: Boston Marathon Explosions.” There, individuals and organizations could share information about the status of marathon participants and spectators for those trying to find them.

If your community has suffered a tragic event, perhaps you have helpful information to share. Here in Florida, which is affected by hurricanes, people use social media to help evacuees and their pets find shelter, and to alert others to danger, such as downed power lines. Depending on your area of expertise, you may be able to provide more general information or commentary. For instance, an educator can share tips for answering children’s questions about the event.

Of course, social media is also about reactions and, for many, that’s a sincere expression of sympathy for and unity with those affected.

If you want to post something and you’re unsure about what to say, take a look at what businesses and other brands are sharing, and how online users are reacting. You may decide to just say nothing for a day or two, or whatever time seems reasonable given the nature of the event.

Sometimes, saying nothing at all speaks volumes."


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