When to Shut Up on Social Media

Many brands and organizations decide to go dark, or stop posting, on social media in the face of a national or global tragedy. Just three years ago, most brands and organizations would have come to a screeching halt on social media in response to a terrorist attack. Sadly, countless tragic school shootings and bombings have occurred over the few years and we’ve become desensitized as a society.

When I woke up to the news reporting the Brussels bombing, I immediately opened my laptop to reschedule my organization’s content for the day. It wasn’t even a question for me. I’m not going to ask people to donate to my nonprofit or send me photos of their happy children when so many people are grieving or terrified.

When I checked Twitter I was shocked to see how many, if not most, of the brands I follow were tweeting as usual. Hot deals to travel ads (but really), they were all there in my timeline. So, it made me think, “When should a brand go dark on social media?”

Some have argued that stopping our daily routine is letting the “bad guys” win. I give zero fucks about the bad guys. I care about the people who were killed, injured or traumatized and all their friends, family and community that were impacted as result. I care about being respectful to them and I want my brand to be respectful to them. With that in mind, here are the things you should consider when questioning if your brand should seize social media activities.

Your content is not time sensitive.

In most cases, your content should be easily moved to another day with no repercussions. On the day of the Brussels attacks, charity: water actually paused their 10th anniversary celebrations for World Water Day. I can imagine what time and effort went into developing that campaign, so I find their decision incredibly honorable. If they can shift a whole campaign for a day that only comes once a year, you can hold off on your daily, regular content.

charity water

Sports teams are a good example of moving forward like business as usual. Sports bring people together. My Carolina Hurricanes played the night of the Brussels attack, I know Caniacs would have been dumbfounded if the team wouldn’t have live tweeted the game. It was also their annual St. Baldrick’s fundraising event, which gave people a reason to celebrate something uplifting. Although they did not acknowledge Brussels on social (that I saw), they did have a moment of silence in the arena.

The news has stopped their daily coverage.

If news programs, like the Today Show or Good Morning America, are doing nothing but reporting a tragic event, then you know that event is top of mind for most people. Your audience most likely doesn’t want to hear about your upcoming book release, sale or new restaurant promo.

Your brand ties into the event.

Even if it is a distance relation, you shouldn’t be trying to elevate your brand on social media if there is a tie to the event. Hotels, airlines, hell, even a suitcase company, shouldn’t be pushing out content after an airport bombing. It’s so incredible insensitive.

Going dark on social media doesn’t mean you should ignore engagement or handle customer care issues. You should stay active, alert and aware of when it is ok to start posting again.

My thoughts and prayers are with Brussels and those impacted by this devastating event.



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