10 Tips in Managing Social Media during Times of Tragedy

We are in the middle of a huge flooding emergency here in Northern Colorado. Many people are scared, uprooted from their homes, worried about their property and animals and in general, it is a tense time. Here are 10 tips in managing social media during times of tragedy to help guide you for your business. If you are handling a client account in times of tragedy, your social media influence is important. Here are some tips to make sure you keep connected to customers – in a positive manner during an emergency.

1) Provide information that is important about a) your business and b) your immediate area.

Customers might need to pick up their contact lenses for an important event or they might need to go into town to do something important with another business. By staying in touch about your open and close hours you are providing valuable information to assist your customers. If you know that the upper area of main street is blocked, yet traffic is being allowed in another area – post this information to help out your customers. Everyone appreciates knowing how to navigate their travel ahead of a problem.

2) Turn off all your automated postings.

This is very important. When people are losing their homes, or are stuck behind faulty bridges and washed out roadways it is stressful thinking that they might not have enough food or clean water to drink over the next few days. Your post about “New Fall colors just arrived and they are AMAZING!” will not only fall flat, but makes your business appear insensitive to the community. Turn off the auto posts. That includes your over-zealous marketing person in another state that is not aware of the local emergency. Call them and have them stop their normal feed. Edit other administrators that don’t have a clue – remember you are managing a business reputation – that sometimes means you silence a feed. That’s the “managing” part others don’t get.

3) Share 911 alert information if possible.

Many people don’t know that cities and states have automated their systems to include reverse 911 notices for cell phones. During your online activity, if you discover this important information it would be very neighborly of you to share the link on your Facebook Business Page or Twitter area. You’d prefer your customers were warned and able to take action in case of a major mudslide or flooding event due to a dam break. Be helpful. Managing social media during times of tragedy does not have to be difficult. You just have to be compassionate for the needs of others and willing to share information.

4) Help thy business neighbor.

If you know a neighboring business is closed because the owners are having trouble getting to their shops. Kindly call them and offer to post a sign on their door alerting their customers and how to reach the owners. You can post on their page for them as well – with their permission of course. Be sure to do what is helpful to them. Some day they may do the same for you in your personal emergency.  Managing social media during times of tragedy sometimes means assisting your neighbors in their social media communications!

5) Be compassionate.

AT&T ad goes sour as people complain they were using the memories of 9/11 to sell phones. The ad was taken down within one hour.

Offer sincere, helpful, compassionate statements that may calm and give strength to your customers. But don’t overdue these actions. Be sincere. If you are overly caring this could backfire and come across as your business trying to advertise during a tragedy. AT&T recently had a backlash as they used a cell phone in an ad showing the 9/11 lighted columns on a cell phone in NYC. Many people saw that as being an advertising ploy to sell phones, while AT&T simply thought it was a memorable image. Things can reverse on you fast, it’s best to hold back, then to try and capitalize on images that are held close to peoples’ emotions.

6)  Don’t try to take the place of law enforcement or emergency alerts.

Sometimes people get a tad overzealous being helpful. You can confuse people if you pass along information that is not accurate. It’s best to let the professionals do their jobs and point people in the direction of local emergency notification areas. You can get in trouble saying that a business is burning, or something has been destroyed when in fact all is fine and you just created panic. So just relax.

7) No, you are not going to have your video go viral by putting yourself in harm’s way to take a video or picture. You are just impeding the efforts of emergency personnel.

Don’t do this please. Stay safe and listen to the directions of the emergency people.   Trying to monitor you takes their attention off of saving people who are legitimately stranded or in dire need of assistance. Let them to their jobs and stay out of the way!

8) Be quiet.

I know this can be difficult but people are into their own immediate welfare and the lives of friends and family. They don’t necessarily need to see your feed coming through too much. Just be calm and quiet and let the emergency messages get to the people that need to hear the messages. Noone cares that your happy hour drink is a “Mudslide” especially if they just saw the family doghouse travel down a mudslide in their backyard. Easy does it.

9) After a tragedy, think of a way to help out that is meaningful and needed.

Need to dig out? Show up with shovels and friends ready to work.

You should be thinking of ways to help your community out if there is a lot of destruction. Yes, you have to stay in your business, however you can gather donations for the food bank in a separate jar on the counter and bring it over each day to help with the cost of feeding hungry people. We will donate 10% of the profit from every sale towards a community fund…..this type of “helpfulness” rings a bit false. People think you are profiting off of others hardships. You can give away a pair of free glasses to someone who lost theirs. Perhaps you can have a fund for this alone. Ask other customers to pitch in to pay for replacement glasses for people who left their homes and cannot see very well because they lost their glasses. Or give away a massage to a firefighter who has been on the job for a while. Have a sandwich shop? Make sandwiches and drive up to the appropriate area and donate some lunches.There are many ways to give back that are deeply meaningful and helpful to your community.

10) Allow your community time to heal.

Don’t be so quick jumping back in to your usual postings and banter on social media. I am already irritated by businesses who started posting links to their items on sale in their stores. I was so irritated I blocked a few of them so now I will never see their feed. I think it was insensitive. I don’t think I am overreacting and many other people simply just shut down their social media accounts in order to work on their properties and homes destroyed by tragedy. To think some of their friends are oblivious to their distress is very hurtful. So just be cautious and do not chatter on and on about something trivial. Always be helpful to your friends, family and neighbors. time to heal community top 10 social media tips to help during an emergency

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