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.

If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!

Want to read more like this from ? Get updates here:

subscribe to my newsletter here

Marketing Blue Belt Preorder

Order your 2016 Marketing Planning Framework

Summer Re-Runs: Content Marketing Strategy and Analytics

Summer Reruns.png

Once a year, I head to the backwoods of Maine for a week off-grid. No phone, no Internet, nothing except my family, a cabin, and a lake. It’s a wonderful, glorious experience that helps me to recharge, refocus, and recover from the stresses of modern life.

However, as a marketer, a week with no activity doesn’t help my marketing. All other things being equal, activity yields results in digital marketing; no activity means no results. So, my plan for a week off hearkened back to classic television: summer re-runs. While I was away, software would do the sharing for me of previous content.


The next question I had to tackle: which content should I re-share?

Instead of just picking content at random, I chose a data-driven approach. I scanned all my blog posts from 2016 for the most shared posts of the year, then re-queued those in Buffer for the week. After all, if I’m going to have a week of re-runs, best to re-share the things people liked most the first time around.

Using the social sharing scanner I built for SHIFT Communications, I identified these 25 posts based on their popularity the first time around:


If you’re not one of my clients, feel free to just use the native analytics built into Facebook, Twitter, etc. instead. Or, become a client of mine at SHIFT and you can have access to the fancy tools 🙂


How did the experiment do? Did my re-runs do better than taking a week off entirely?

  • I began with a total of 2,278 shares across 8 social networks.
  • Over the week, that total rose to 2,637.
  • Overall, I netted 359 additional shares.

What was most interesting was where I picked up new shares.


While most articles picked up a handful of new shares, a few broke through the pack and carried the weight for most of the re-sharing, such as:

  • Keeping your marketing skills sharp, 37 new shares
  • The future of social media measurement, 56 new shares
  • How we’ve failed marketing automation, 68 new shares

These top three newly re-shared posts have little in common; this time around, audiences approved of these posts instead.

Other Insights

What else did I learn from this experiment?


Sharing isn’t traffic per se, but it sure helps. I saw a week over week increase of 62% in traffic driven from social networks.

Conversely, because I was posting no net new content, I didn’t please our search overlords. Week over week, I saw a decrease of 3.27% in organic search traffic. I also saw declines in other areas such as referral traffic because I was away, not conducting normal marketing activities.


Should you use the same recipe to populate your social channels when you’re on vacation or otherwise unavailable? I can’t give you an absolute answer, but my results indicate that re-runs are better than nothing. Give them a try using the data-driven methodology of your choice and measure your results. You might be surprised at what gains new life in your content.

If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!

Want to read more like this from ? Get updates here:

subscribe to my newsletter here

Marketing Blue Belt Preorder

Order your 2016 Marketing Planning Framework

Clarifying the Twitter App Family

Twitter made waves again recently with its launch of Dashboard, the latest app to join its already confusing app family. The intent of Dashboard and Engage appears to be to narrow down Twitter’s feature set for specific kinds of users. This is built on the premise that the platform overall is perceived as too difficult to use compared to Facebook.

The current app ecosystem looks like this:


plus Tweetdeck on the desktop.

How do we make sense of this? By intent. Here’s how we should be deploying these apps.

For Marketing Technologists

Fabric is a mobile app analytics platform. Use it with your app developers in the same way you use the Google Analytics Mobile SDK. Business users can give it a pass; developers should be deploying it as part of a standard operating procedure.

For Business Users

Dashboard is aimed at the small business owner, but it’s useful for any social media manager for a very top-level view of the brand’s Twitter account.


Throughout Dashboard are subtle hints to engage more, which are good for the business manager who doesn’t have a social media team. It’s bad if you do have a team, because spontaneous activity could disrupt an existing content calendar.

For Executives

Engage was built initially for “celebrities” and other prominent personalities, but its feature set is ideal for business executives and thought leaders, especially those who aren’t as familiar with Twitter.


Engage shows what’s happening in real-time, which is nice if an executive wants to see how their actions generate engagement from their audience.

For Marketers

The core Twitter app and its video companion, Periscope, are for us marketers. We’re familiar with them. We know them. We know what we’re doing with them (mostly). While business users and executives could get great benefit from Periscope, it’s not the first app I’d put on an executive’s phone, not without coaching and training.

Ignore Niche; apparently it was a failed attempt at a consolidated social dashboard that never went anywhere.

The Glaring Omission

While Periscope may need coaching, the omission of live video in Twitter’s app ecosystem is a glaring one. Video is top of mind for everyone today. Facebook integrates video into each of its apps, so that embarrassing yourself live is always just a touch away.

Twitter should have done the same, if it wanted to keep parity in the video arms race.

Why the Mess?

Why did Twitter make such a mess of its app ecosystem? It actually makes a great deal of sense. They’ve essentially repackaged their core features for different kinds of users, which is better than trying to make one app be all things to all people. Executives and celebrities need different emphasis than business owners. Business owners don’t necessarily want or need the entire timeline first and foremost.

Attempting to re-imagine the core app to do everything and be what everyone wants would likely result in people disengaging even further.

For us marketers, our role in our organizations is to help match the right app to the right person. Knowing the ecosystem as we do, we select who needs what, providing them with the optimal experience on Twitter.

If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!

Want to read more like this from ? Get updates here:

subscribe to my newsletter here

Marketing Blue Belt Preorder

Order your 2016 Marketing Planning Framework

mautic is open source marketing automation