Social media tragedy response guidelines

Social media tragedy response guidelines.png

Michelle asked via Twitter:

In recent months, many national tragedies have occurred. In the wake of these tragedies, what’s the appropriate social media behavior? Is it OK to tweet/post in the immediate aftermath? If so, what is appropriate? Your regularly scheduled posts? Or posts related to the tragedy? Or is it better not to post at all?

This is a very complicated question. Most of the advice written about handling major/national issues is too simplistic. The United States has a mass shooting of some kind virtually every day:

Mass Shootings per Day, USA 2016.png

Data source: Mass Shooting Tracker

If we were to stop our social postings for each, we’d literally never be able to post normally on social media again. I understand the impulse, the emotional need many people have to give voice to their grief. In times of tragedy, we seek connection to each other, to make sense of the senseless and the terrible. When we grieve, we also take umbrage at those who don’t share our connection, who we perceive as ignoring our pain.

Rather than a knee-jerk policy of “stop the presses” or an endless stream of “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims” posts, we as marketers and human beings have to balance our humanity with our fiduciary responsibility to our companies.

With that perspective in mind, when an incident of any kind occurs, we should consider five factors to guide our response:

  • Proximity
  • Magnitude
  • Impact to your audience
  • Alignment with our brand
  • Judgement


If an incident occurs in our hometown, obviously be sure our employees, loved ones, etc. are safe and accounted for. Social media should be the least of our concerns. Once we’ve established there’s no threat or harm to our immediate community, we can consider more mundane issues.

The more proximate an incident to either our company or our market, the more we should consider interrupting our normal operations. For example, if you worked in financial services, even if you are based in Boston, an incident in New York City is likely to impact your customers and audience.


An incident’s magnitude also dictates our level of response; the greater the overall magnitude, the more likely we should interrupt operations. While we’ve all heard of and mourn major shootings like Dallas, Orlando, Newtown, and Columbine, you probably didn’t know about the other daily mass shootings in the US, as per the graph above.

Assuming equal proximity, the magnitude of an event should also govern our response plan.

Audience Impact

Not all people respond the same way to incidents, major or minor. Our core audience, the people we do business with and serve, should dictate a significant portion of our response based on their response. We must monitor our audience to determine how impacted they are by any given incident.

For example, suppose you had a Twitter list of your top 100 customers. An incident occurred and none of those top 100 customers talked about the incident at all. Should you interrupt operations? Probably not. Your audience isn’t relaying the impact to you. Conversely, if 75 of your top 100 customers all began tweeting about an incident and how horrified they are, that’s a good indicator to interrupt normal operations.

Brand Alignment

If an incident is impactful to your brand, consider interrupting normal operations. For example, if an incident occurs at one of your business locations, involves one of your employees or customers, or your brand is in any way involved, interrupt operations and activate your crisis communications plan.


Use sound human judgement. If you have to ask, "will this offend our audience”, the answer is probably yes. If you have to ask, “should we stop normal marketing operations”, the answer is probably yes.

There’s little harm in erring on the side of caution in marketing. No one at a responsible company has ever lost their job for choosing to remain silent or acknowledging the human cost of an incident rather than continuing normal business operations amidst tragedy.

The One Rule Not To Break

The one thing you most certainly should NOT do is attempt to leverage a tragedy for marketing benefit. Hijacking other peoples’ sorrow to sell more stuff is a sure path to public, well-deserved condemnation. Of all the guidelines and factors in this post, this is the only hard-and-fast rule: don’t market sorrow.

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The Powerful Motivation of Almost Winning

Almost Winning.png

While on vacation, I watched two kids play a claw game at the local Walmart. If you’re unfamiliar, claw games are games of chance in which users attempt to pick up prizes with an unstable mechanical claw:

Grabber machines // Jeu des pinces

Watching the kids play and listening to them talk revealed an interesting motivation: almost winning was more compelling than actually winning something.

Think about how this motivation shows up in other games.

  • In Pokemon Go, we expend more Pokeballs trying to catch a difficult creature, but that raises our motivation to catch it.
  • In casino slot machines, getting 2 out of 3 winning bars encourages us to keep putting coins in the machine.
  • How much more compelling is a football play when your favorite team is at 4th and goal versus 4th and 20? How much more closely do you watch?

Almost winning taps into our competitive spirit. It taps into ego and a potent stew of emotions, from hope to anxiety. We feel these emotions even when we’re not directly playing, when we’re watching others play.

Consider how you might use this motivation for your marketing operations. If you manage a team of people, instead of setting either ludicrously unachievable goals or goals with a bar so low that you stumble over it, what if you set marketing goals that were just barely out of reach?

Consider how you might use this motivation for your marketing itself. Suppose you had a sales goal or a fundraising goal, and you invited your community to participate and be a part of it. Could you make your marketing efforts more compelling to watch, like the football game, if you’re almost winning rather than a hopeless cause or an effortless winner?

Almost winning could be a powerful ingredient for you to actually win at marketing.

Photo credit: DocChewbacca

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Solicited Review: Mohu Curve 50 Indoor HDTV Antenna

New Mohu Curve.png

During Prime Day, I saw a deal I couldn’t pass up: the Samsung 55" 4K curved TV. I love 4K TVs as second monitors for my laptop. The amount of real estate and high DPI means you can have a dozen windows open at the same time and not feel cramped.

I don’t watch much TV other than CW’s The Flash, but it’s nice to have a live feed for things like the Super Bowl, major news events, etc., especially since cable and telecom providers make us jump through absurd hoops to watch anything online. So when the Mohu team offered me a chance to demo the Mohu Curve, I dived in.

Features: What’s in the Box?

At its core, the Mohu Curve is nothing more than a digital TV antenna. However, unlike most of its competitors, Mohu attempted to make it look reasonably nice. The Curve is about a foot long and 8 inches high, and looks like… well, a curved piece of plastic. This is an improvement over most HDTV antennae that look like plastic sheeting stapled to a cable.


The Curve plugs into the nearly ubiquitous USB power supply found on most modern TVs; it’ll also work plugged into any other powered USB source.

Once you unpack it and place the antenna where you want it, you plug the Curve into your TV through its coaxial jack and tell your TV to tune to it. After 5-10 minutes of scanning through all the channels available, your TV will be ready to use it.


The Curve is dead simple to use. Plug it in, follow your TV’s instructions, and you’re up and running with live feeds. There’s no additional software to configure besides whatever your TV is built with.


The Curve also has better reception than many of its competitors; you don’t need to monkey around with positioning. Just place it near any window or wall that isn’t a Faraday cage.

If you’re unfamiliar, a Faraday cage is any metal enclosure which blocks electromagnetic frequencies. Some houses have substantial amounts of metal in the walls; putting any antenna next to a metal wall will give you poor reception. Rule of thumb: if a room or place in your house has terrible Wi-Fi and mobile phone reception, it’s probably not going to have great over-the-air TV reception either.

Drawbacks & Limitations

The Curve has a few limitations; first, I don’t understand why it only comes with a coaxial output. If it had an HDMI output, I could plug it directly into my laptop as well as a TV. That’d be nice. Perhaps in a future version!

The Curve’s maximum resolution output is 1080p. This is a limitation of over-the-air TV. No TV station that I know of broadcasts over-the-air at a 4K resolution, so if your TV’s up sampling engine is poor, you’ll have a grainy picture.

For TV stations that broadcast in regular SD (aka 480p), you’ll have a picture that is unwatchable close up on a very large screen.

The Curve is also only as good as the local TV stations and what they broadcast. The Curve’s edition numbers indicate the maximum practical range of that antenna; the Curve 30 is designed for a maximum 30 mile radius from the transmitter. I would strongly recommend that you cut range estimates by 25%. I wouldn’t buy the Curve 30 if I lived 25 miles away from the station; buy the Curve 50 instead.

Use Cases

Mohu talks about cutting the cord, which is certainly one use-case for the Curve and their other products. However, the use-case I find more valuable is for second/alternate TVs. I have regular TV coming into my house from a Verizon FIOS line. I’m unwilling to buy a second converter box and a bunch of wiring just to make my second monitor a TV set. That’s a lot of hassle and extra monthly expense I’m not interested in, especially since I don’t watch much TV.

The Mohu Curve brings live feeds into my second monitor affordably and conveniently. I didn’t need to run any extra cable or pay Verizon a dime more. Combined with the smart functionality of my TV (built in Netflix, etc.), the Mohu Curve can either help you cut the cord or never need more cord.


If you want to cut the cord, or you want more TV without more recurring expenses, and you live in an area with good over-the-air TV reception, consider the Mohu Curve. It’s available on Amazon and a bunch of other places.

Disclosure: Mohu is a client of my employer. The Mohu PR team gifted a Mohu Curve to me as part of a blogger/influencer outreach program. I was given no other compensation, but indirectly benefit financially from their patronage as a client. All product links in this article are Amazon affiliate links.

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