Social Media in Tragedy: Just Stop

Posted on April 15, 2013

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“My thoughts and prayers are with those in Boston today.”

I saw several of my friends post something similar today after hearing about the bombs at the Boston Marathon. Times like this, I have to shut down every social outlet because my blood pressure spikes. Not because of the tragedy or the reminder of how cold this world is, but because of how people (and brands) react to it.

I would hope that you would pray for victims in a tragedy. I believe that’s an amazing, selfless thing to do. Pray, send thoughts, hope, send your heart out, whatever – all great things you can do to help your fellow man in a spiritual sense.

But don’t POST about it.

You want to acknowledge it? Fine. Especially from a brand perspective, that’s probably even a good thing. Acknowledge it. Gives yours fans an explanation as to why your page is going dark for a day. But your personal page? Stop.

Do you tweet every time you pray for that promotion? When you pray for your family’s health? When you pray that rash in that place goes away? Doubt it. So why tell everyone you’re praying now?

If you care about those affected in tragedy, pray. Don’t broadcast it, don’t publicize your good deed, don’t make sure everyone knows that you know and you feel terrible. Praying for others is selfless; letting everyone know of the good deed you’re doing is selfish. So stop.

Brands can fall into the same space. Acknowledge the tragedy along with a few helpful links for those wanting to help. Don’t live-post about the tragedy (unless it’s your job of course). Don’t chase the hashtag to “help” by spreading a message the entire world already knows about. Acknowledge it, then shut up. Unless you can directly help the situation, just shut up. No RTs, no shares, no…just be quiet and let those closest to the events do their jobs. Your bakery in El Paso tweeting about the war in Syria is not helping. It’s selfish. Just stop it.

Final rant – social media experts telling other social media experts to check their scheduled tweets. I see 40 tweets about this every time something happens – WHY? You will defend this to your death, I’m sure, but a large part of this decision was made to get a reaction from your followers. We’re social media experts – don’t you think we’ve turned off our posts? Obviously, we have, because 40 of us are tweeting at you to do the same. Other social pros don’t need your help. If your argument is that brands still miss things like this, don’t you think that will work itself out? You better believe it’s at the top of the agenda on their next status. Do your job regarding the tragedy, then shut up. Don’t be a hero of the digital world. Stop.

In the end, can’t we just treat social as real life? If you own a restaurant and the building next to you catches on fire, you don’t announce to your patrons that you’re praying for a tragedy. No, you just do. You don’t run out of your restaurant to help firefighters put out the fire next door. No, you just evacuate your restaurant, close your doors, and let the pros work. You don’t tell the store on the other side of the burning building to stop working. No, you stop your work and they stop theirs because they’re smarter than that.

Just stop.

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