Social Media Sensitivities

04.24.2013 | Holly Zuluaga

Social media can be an amazing tool for businesses, brands and individuals, and there are some great complimentary tools that can help automate the process to be more manageable. However, it is important to ensure you are sensitive to what is happening in the world, and listen and react accordingly. For many brands Twitter is an amazingly deft place to promote content, but depending on world events and how you react to them, your content can be perceived as insensitive. At times, disabling automatic tweets and not distributing content is absolutely the right thing to do.

We provide support for a number of our clients in the social media realm. We create posts, monitor interactions and curate content. Last week when the Boston Marathon explosion rocked the country, we advised our client Attachmate to refrain from posting promotional content on the day of the bombing.  In many cases silence or acknowledgement and condolences are the best responses to what is happening around the world.

Since the incident we have been evaluating the appropriateness of tweets on a day-to-day basis.

We learned in fact that some people who kept tweeting and promoting were slammed across Twitter. I came across this article on, “Guy Kawasaki is too ‘popular’ to stop autotweets during Boston bombings,” that talks about how Twitter guru Guy Kawasaki continued with his automated tweets when news of the bombings broke. He was widely criticized throughout the Twitterverse for being insensitive.

So how do you decide when it is appropriate for your brand to tweet when confusion, fear or devastation has swept the country?  We’ve outlined three things to consider when deciding if you should post those 140 characters in the wake of tragedy.

  • How will your message be perceived? Internalize what has happened and consider how your followers might perceive your message. What is the timing of your tweet and how could your followers react? Could you be perceived as insensitive?
  • What are other brands doing? It is a safe bet that if other brands, especially those with a similar business to yours are quiet, you should stay quiet too. As a rule of thumb, go silent the first day of a tragedy. The exception is if there are customer service-related posts to respond to; those are typically acceptable and would not be construed as promotional.
  • How much time has passed? The first few hours and throughout the day after a tragic national event has occurred are typically when people use Twitter to update event information. It is a safe bet that the first day of a tragedy is a good day to stay quiet. Each day following the event should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but many businesses typically go back to posting business as usual.

Part of being an effective Twitter user is not just creating the content, but listening to what is happening and how that can impact your message. Communiqué PR can help your business with developing a social media strategy and provide recommendations for your individual brand. Please visit for more details.


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Filed under: COMMUNIQUÉ PR, Execution, EXPERTISE, PR trends, Reputation Management, Social media


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