The Social Reaction to Tragedy

A SIGN OF THE TIMES. Whether you’re a social account manager for a company or you run your own social accounts for business, as the world continues to grow smaller through our online engagement, it also brings to light new conundrums. We can no longer bury our heads in the proverbial sand and assume that tragedies will not occur, nor can we ignore those that do. Each morning that I’m online, I become aware of some new atrocity that has taken place while I slept.

What should your social media response be to terrorist attacks, shootings, and/or natural disasters?


The last thing you want is for you – or your company – to be perceived as callous and uninformed, sharing and self-promoting as if nothing had happened. And yet the reality is that automation of tweets and social posting has become the norm in social marketing; but this is a double-edged sword. When you use that technology to make your social sharing easier, in seconds you or your brand can come across as ignorant – at best – or insensitive to the current event.

BEST PRACTICE. In an effort to keep an eye on world events, I follow the BBC on Twitter and Facebook for immediate updates. This allows me to be informed of more news than just that which is occurring in the U.S., and gives me an opportunity to choose to react or not.

You cannot issue a social pause for every incident – tragedy does happen every day – but err on the side of sensitivity.


If an event happens, like the Brussels attacks earlier this year, I recommend that my clients pause their scheduled promotion for a few hours. Better to be silent than to be insensitive. My personal preference is to not only refrain from personal promotion, but to acknowledge the event, sending out a sentiment of “thoughts and prayers” and include the trending hashtag on Twitter.

BOTTOM LINE. It’s never the wrong choice to pause and acknowledge the pain and suffering of others, but it can be viewed as the poor choice to ignore it and self-promote. Promotion can begin again tomorrow, because in that moment, it’s not about business.