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social media iconsSukhraj Beasla works for social media marketing firm Viralheat.

This week’s tragic events of the Boston Marathon explosions have given me a lot of think about. While I’m still deeply saddened, I couldn’t help but notice the viral impact of social media during times like these. While it’s awesome we can get news almost instantaneously, there’s also much at stake if we’re not careful with what we say and how we respond during these times or any other time.

While scanning Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates, I was shocked by all the inappropriate comments and jokes at the expense of the runners and their families, brands who still hadn’t learned how to respond properly, and “social media experts” weighing in on their opinions for page views.

Before committing another social media faux pas, perhaps it’s time we learned proper social media etiquette.

While Twitter and Facebook are great resources for information, unfortunately they’re not always accurate. Before re-tweeting or expressing an opinion, it’s always best to check in with a trusted news source and see what they’re reporting. Since I’m a news junkie and like to stay on top of current events, I’ve created a Twitter list that includes news sources like CNN, BBC, AP, and Reuters (just to name a few). I check the list whenever I have a chance to see what’s breaking, what’s new, and what I can automatically retweet since I know it’ll be accurate.

Having the basic facts is the first step in forming a response, being prepared, and knowing how to respond.

  1. Determine if the cause is relevant to your brand
    Is it in your area? Did it affect your business? Did it impact your brand in any way? Or do you just want to be sympathetic and say a few words? Most often brands just want to be the first to respond without any thought given to what the tragedy is and how their words might be viewed by their community. Instead of trying to be the first, think about the impact those words will have. Even if you retract your statement, someone somewhere will capture it and that will haunt you forever so think first, social media it later.
  2. Inform your company and your community
    Your employees are just as concerned as the community you’re trying to reach. Think about the messaging you also want to provide to your employees so that everyone is in sync, feels safe, and knows that the company has a plan in place in case something were to happen nearby. Construct an email that will be similar to what you’ll be announcing on your social media platforms.
  3. Be a resource
    As a community manager, it is your number one priority to make sure you are reporting accurate information about your company.  If you’re going to include a link with your message, be sure it’s something that is thoroughly vetted and accurate or just keep your message plain, simple, and heartfelt.
  4. Be compassionate
    Your crisis message is important. Don’t make it a canned message that everyone else is using and throw it up there. Be truly sincere. Perhaps, offer a link with your message that others can use to find help, nearby resources, and/or shelter. Is your company offering up a donation? These are important things to consider.
  5. Create a social media crisis plan
    Just like an editorial calendar, create a plan for any potential disasters or your own internal faux pas, determine who will do the research, what will be said, and how to respond.
  6. Halt other marketing and promotions
    Remember if you do respond, that should be your closing thought for the day out of respect for the tragedy. Do not follow it up with another post promoting your brand or an auto tweet. If you truly are trying to express your condolences and then follow up with another message, your audience will turn on you in a heartbeat.

What are your thoughts about the social media response from yesterday or during any other national/international crisis? Does your brand have a plan? Does your company use a social media management tool to keep your accounts in order?

photo credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc

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