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Your Small Business Social Media After National Tragedy

For the third time in less than two months, I've delayed client social media posts due to a shooting.

The sentiments and events that grip our country as of late are beyond unsettling. I see it with my clients, family, friends, and in the community. Everyone is more than a little shaken up by what feels like a constant stream of not-so-awesome events and revelations.

Whether your business is 1 person or 1000, brick-and-mortar or online, as small business leaders, you are the glue that can hold communities together. How you shape your narrative and action steps can have an impact.

In the wake of tragic events and natural disasters, people from around the world are active on social media to gain information, express feelings, and seek support. As a team leader, it can be hard to know how to handle your small business social media after tragedy captures your audience’s attention.

How you manage your social media after a tragic event can make or break a brand – large and small. It can also be the difference between being a part of the solution or part of the problem. If scheduled posts go out in a ‘business as usual’ manner, it appears insensitive or at the very least, disorganized. That not only looks bad for your brand, but it offers an apathetic approach that can be modeled by others who’d rather ignore serious matters than do the hard work to alleviate root causes.

If you don’t post as usual, what do you do? Do you acknowledge the incident? If you acknowledge one tragedy, must you acknowledge another, and how do you determine what incidents gain your attention and which do not? It can feel like a frivolous conundrum to confront as you and your team attempt to process the event information.

No matter the events, if you’re not directly involved with the incident (and even sometimes if you are), business does need to continue. Your social media is a marketing tool to help you build business, but there are times when your platforms need to go quiet out of respect and necessity. Take a look over the following tips to gain a little perspective when you’re not sure how to handle your online marketing in tragic times.

1. Stay informed.

You can’t know how to handle your social media if you aren’t aware of current events taking place. It’s great to unplug often. If you’re going to be offline for a day, a week, a month, be sure to inform a team member with access to the brand’s social media accounts. Someone should have an eye on current events. If a tragic event occurs, it’s best to suspend scheduled posts. Pushing the sale in tragic times is damaging to your brand reputation, distracting to supporters and appears tone deaf in newsfeeds.

2. Say something... or don't.

This is a personal brand preference. Unfortunately, the world is not an entirely safe place. Horrors and tragic events occur across the globe daily. Picking and choosing which events to address and which to ignore can cause you stress. Even if someone monitored the news every moment of the day, every painful incident can’t be addressed. If the tragedy or hardship has personal or direct connections to your brand, that may be a good indicator to publicly acknowledge the event. If in doubt, simply remaining silent on social is a conservative and respectful approach. If you do acknowledge the event, don't brand your post or sell in the copy.

3. Create a plan and stick to it.

Decide how tragedies will be addressed and have a plan in place for when such things occur. Contemplating the processes when you aren’t affected by tragedy allows you to take action without too much thinking. Everyone has different coping techniques and tying personal emotion to your brand messaging in a state of overwhelm may not work out positively for you or your company. Know what to do ahead of time and do it.

4. Avoid negative messaging.

It seems high emotion political conversations dominate our social media platforms. I like to see this as a good thing. Though some of it can be extraordinarily negative, the information age is still young. Hopefully, as technology evolves, so will our critical thinking abilities. Until that happens, being in a barrage of negative information can be overwhelming, and it can be tempting to take a firm political stand on your brand social media accounts.

Unless you’ve determined that such a stance positively factors into your overall marketing message and mission, I’d breathe and step away from the keyboard. I’m an advocate for getting your company involved in community causes and supporting positive dialogue. Setting your online outreach on fire in a moment of anger, panic, or horror doesn’t count as leading by example or offering long term solutions.

If it’s part of your brand to be brazen, of the moment, and pumped full of emotion, go for it. If this is your brand, you’ll know it. Such messaging is the foundation of your branding – with or without tragedy. If this is not you, avoid bringing in negative messaging that isn’t part of your overall mission.

5. Offer support beyond a post and let your network get involved.

It’s a nice practice to have event-related or ongoing donation opportunities for your small business. Whether your team volunteers or sets up a percentage of profit to funnel to good causes, making community involvement part of your ongoing business approach is an awesome idea. After a tragedy, you can help direct your social network toward thoughtfully vetted teams assisting those affected. Bring attention to the helpers, and if you feel that you’d like to speak out, do so in a positive, constructive way that can benefit others in a long term capacity.

I’m a little sick to my stomach that I’m even writing this post in the first place, but we all must take an active part in managing tragedies and developing systems to either prevent horror or lessen the burden. It may seem shallow to think about social media in a time of great pain, but the longevity of your business and the healing of your community factor into these of-the-moment choices.

Kindness and sensitivity go a long way. Taking an active part in bettering your community and operating your business with a sense of purpose creates positive impact in the world. Putting a plan in place for tragic times will help you navigate those moments quickly and allow you time to care for yourself, your team, and those surrounding your business. You can change the world for the better.

Peace and wellness always,


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