Social Media in Tragedies: A Guide for Social Media Brand Managers

What To Do When Tragedy Strikes

One of the most challenging times as a social media brand management happen when tragedy or disaster strikes.

It’s a challenge that pales in comparison to the suffering endured in the actual event, for sure.

social media brand manager


And the challenge of any responsible, sensitive brand manager is to respond in such a way as to provide compassion, care, and any form of real assistance.

Above all, the goal is not to err somehow and make the wounds deeper.

As a brand, the goal of all of our marketing efforts is to create value for our audience, to somehow in our content give our readers what they’re looking for in terms of information, inspiration or encouragement, humor, evaluations, and more.

In a moment of tragedy, however, that’s not what our audience continues to need.

Because at the end of the day, our audience is made up of real living, breathing, individual people with hearts that break at the horror of violence and disaster. And in those moments, our audience needs the same thing as any other person. A place of respectful silence to try to process the incomprehensible. A compassionate ear when ready to talk through and make sense of it all. And above all else, a heart of love, compassion, and prayer for our fellow human beings.

As some recent tragedies have shown, this is a bit of a minefield for many brand managers. And the truth is – what might seem like common sense in hindsight can often be muddied in the heat of the moment. With the speed of sharing, such a “reason” sounds like a hollow excuse for insensitivity when poorly timed Tweets or pre-set posts make light of – or even ignore – a real crisis altogether.
Here are some simple guidelines for brand managers and social media strategists to keep in mind when responding to real world tragedies on social media channels.

How to Respond to Tragedy via Social Media: Tips for Brand Managers

1. Stop your scheduled posts
Quickly pause your prescheduled posts to avoid the risk of sending anything that will be poorly received. In the heat of the moment you may not know what will be received well and what will cause further grief. You don’t need to take that risk.

2. Don’t try to tie in to your brand
It’s not time to tie in to your latest special. Just ask Kenneth Cole.

3. Offer a warm, heartfelt message of condolence and solidarity
It is perfectly appropriate to post a brief message of solidarity and prayer for those affected by a tragedy or crisis. Keep it short and don’t offer opinions in your message.

4. Don’t analyze or offer updates about the tragedy from your brand page
Your brand’s social media page isn’t the place to offer your opinions on the situation or offer updates. Referral links to local news agencies and agencies offering assistance can be a useful way of sharing information with those needing it.

5. Don’t try to create humor about the situation
Leave humor to the professionals. The chance of offending people is just too great in a time of crisis.

6. Determine an appropriate timeline for a return to posting as normal

At some point, a new normal is reached after a time of crisis, and that includes your brand’s communication as well. Talk with someone (a colleague or a friend if you’re a solo-preneur) about what that timeline might be like in your business or industry. It might be helpful to take cues from major traditional media outlets as well – as the collective culture begins to move on, it helps you know when it’s okay to do the same.

What are your additions to our list of tips for managing social media during a tragedy? What do you like to see or whised brands didn’t do? Leave a comment below.


  1. Rich Peirce says

    Very well stated. I am amazed how corporations and companies mishandle things during these times.

    • says

      Agreed, Rich. I think it points to a bigger issue, honestly, where our culture doesn't know how to deal with grief well.  And as a result, the people in marketing positions don't either. 

  2. says

    So true. I cringe when I see streams on my Facebook all guidy with excitement advertisiing their amazing webinar and it really is so inappropriate. It's best to be quiet. Talk sincerely. Don't try to be the "gatekeeper" of the tragedy like you said. Very good words of advice. I wish people would turn off their auto posts… is bad form truly. Thank you!

    • says

      Thanks, Jan.  Appreciate your comments, especially about giddiiness about one's new product/service in a moment of collective grief.  Blessings to you and yours!

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