How to Be Social In Times of Tragedy

vigilIt’s been a really long weekend. I’ve had CNN on since Friday morning. I’ve been by the television for every live press conference, vigil and speech from the Governor of Connecticut and the President of the United States. Our country has suffered 27 tremendous losses and the need for information and understanding keeps me and many others sucked in, even though we know we’re never going to get the answer to the only question that seems to matter right now: Why?

We will probably never know. But what we do know is how strong we are as a nation. And how when tragedy hits we come together united and do whatever we can with what we have to help those who are suffering, no matter what our beliefs or whether we would consider someone a friend in day-to-day life. We’re there for those who are hurting.

Social media shows its strength during times like this more than any other event. When all you want to do is make the victims understand how sorry you are for what they’re going through, a tweet to grow awareness of their pain has become the present day immediate response. The hard part is for those users who are using social not just as a platform of personality, but to drive sales and traffic for their business. To maintain a personable online presence when tragic times hit, there are steps these users should take to respect the time for support and mourning.

Follow these tips to be respectful to your community during times of tragedy:

Don’t share your opinion
The issues in this case include addressing mental illness and gun control laws. No matter what the situation, even if the issue is directly in line with your business, do not bother to share an opinion. It doesn’t better your business to spur controversial debates, I can promise you that. If you must convey your opinion personally, that’s up to you. But if your personal brand is what you’re marketing, you need to prepare for the repercussions of separating yourself from some of your audience.

Turn off scheduled activity
There’s no doubt that scheduling status updates for social media is extremely useful for maintaining a consistent presence online, even when you cannot be at the computer at every moment. But your enthusiastic tweet about the fun weekend coming up or great advice for something that likely feels small in times of devastation are not welcome when people are coming together to grieve. As soon as you’re aware, take steps to deactivate those updates because. You will quickly be called out for insensitive promotional activity, so prepare for an apology should you be behind in getting notified of the latest news.

Give your respects
Since you’re human, it’s probably no stretch for you to feel for victims of a tragedy. Let the world see that. As we discuss frequently showing the personal side of your brand, this is as good a time as ever. A brief line of where your thoughts lie speaks volumes.

Silence is golden
You’ve turned off your scheduled activity and you’ve shared your condolences. At this point, you should gauge the activity of the Internet to see when it’s appropriate to prepare normal social activity again. This could be 24 hours. This could be a few days. It’s hard to put a number on something so immeasurable as a tragedy can be. So use your heart and common sense to feel it out.

~*~On a Personal Note ~*~ I couldn’t focus on blog promotion for the rest of the weekend because this particular event has really rocked my soul. My mother is an elementary school teacher, as dedicated to her students as the heroes at Sandy Hook. My sister has a 7 year old daughter, as gorgeous and brilliant as those who passed this weekend. I’m absolutely heartbroken and feel helpless on how I can help, but today I know I can encourage you with smart practices like these to better online communication when rumors will run rampant as people are searching for answers.

emilie parkerI leave you with a picture of Emilie Parker, a 6-year old angel who was learning Portuguese from her dad before she passed. She’s inspired me to get more serious about learning a second language. Thank you, Emilie.

I wish all of your families well.



photo credit: Eustaquio Santimano via photopin cc


  1. omv

    Great article, personally though I take great pleasure in any situation where I can attack this country’s gun nuts, but that is just me.

  2. Janine_Renee

    What a beautiful post Amy. I, too have been extremely emotional by this horrible tragedy. My beautiful little nieces come to mind and tears start pouring out. It’s so hard to know what to focus on in a time like this. Thanks for you insights on brand awareness during a time of mourning.

    1. @Janine_Renee I think we’re all shaken. I gave myself the weekend to be immersed in the tragedy because I felt that was my way of connecting to the families. It’s a new week and time to get back to life and just keep those special people in mind to now be motivated. Thanks for the comment, Janine.

  3. shaunsimpson

    Great stuff Amy.  I have a business and personal page and posted something on my personal page that wasn’t too controversial, but 10 minutes later a gun rights argument erupted on my post from people who are not even my friends.  Lesson learned indeed.

  4. SweatyBetties

    great post. I didn’t post anything on FB for the weekend and did my first blog on Tuesday which was in memory of them.. it didn’t feel right to go back to self-promo so soon. You are completely right and I’m like you, have been glued to CNN.. tough stuff

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