Should Brands Go Dark on Social Media After Disaster?
There’s a new best practice in social media marketing. In an era where communications is continuous and real-time, there’s a directive to go dark in times of disaster.
When the last public tragedy occurred (maybe it was the Sandy Hook shooting) I saw a number of brands I follow on social media announce they’d be taking a moment of silence for the remainder of the day out of respect or remembrance for the victims of the horrific events that occurred.
After Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing, one of the fashion blogs I follow tweeted this:
Hearts go out to loved ones known and unknown in Boston. Moment of silence the rest of the day for victims of senseless violence everywhere.
— refinery29 (@Refinery29) April 15, 2013
Scott Monty, Ford Motor Company’s highly visible social media marketer with more than 90k Twitter followers, put it into words:
— CASIE STEWART (@casiestewart) April 15, 2013
The reply from Casie Stewart describes how one social media management software actually alerted users to the fact that something happened in the public sphere, and while I didn’t see exactly what this reminder said, I can only assume it suggested that users watch out for being too chatty the rest of the day.
If anyone reading is a Social Sprout user, I’d be very interested to know exactly what the notification said, because here’s the thing.
I’m not sold on this new directive.
Bringing business as usual to a screeching halt is quite the opposite of “keep calm and carry on” and it could be argued it gives power to the terrorists.
More importantly, however, we all agree that social media is a brilliant tool for disseminating news and having shared experiences. As Kristi recounted on the blog yesterday, Twitter and Facebook acted as connective tissue for a traumatized nation. The reason that social media can be used so readily as a warning system and a gathering place to grieve is because it’s woven into the thread of how we communicate. It’s part of our lives.
To cut out commerce from that fabric is to label it as less than good. It implies that there’s something dirty about business, and when things become serious we should really stop indulging in such uncouth behavior. It’s insensitive to engage in frivolous behavior when people are dying. Except, what’s frivolous about marketing when a business’s success supports families and individuals, puts food on the table?
Commerce, with its offspring marketing, is an important vein in the global body, transporting financial life blood throughout the world. Doing business can’t be treated as less good or a luxury appropriate only in times of prosperity, and so I’d like to discourage an attitude that looks down on brands for continuing to do their work after a tragic event.
Let’s not give so much power to tragedy that it paralyzes us. If you feel moved to be silent, then let yourself process in the way that feels right. Then recognize that grief doesn’t take one form. For some, healing comes from continuing on with life.
I’d love your thoughts on this emerging attitude, agree or disagree. It can be so hard to understand how things like the Boston Marathon bombing can happen. Any ideas about how senseless tragedy can be better processed through the public experience is a welcome lesson.