Social Media Marketing During the Paris Terror Attacks

Blacked Out Eiffel Tower

The blacked-out Eiffel Tower following the terrorist attacks on Nov. 13, 2015.

Pre-programed and robotic posts show many “marketers” were out of touch.

Nothing is worse than looking insensitive and out of touch with your audience. During times of crisis your audience will shift its focus to the latest news and world events. We saw this happen immediately when the Paris terrorist attacks occurred on Nov. 13 and during the aftermath.

Breaking news and major world events requires an understanding of our audiences and the 24-hour marketing/news cycle.  We must constantly watch and monitor what is happening and have the ability to take action immediately.

Were you watching the events unfold in Paris? Were you or your audiences commenting about this on social media? I did and many of the people I know and with whom I am connected expressed their opinions, outrage and sadness. The ability to express our feelings and opinions as well as communicate with others is what social media is all about. We have the unique ability, like never before in history to communicate and interact instantaneously. However, with this ability comes a responsibility, especially for those of us who use social media as a means to market and build our brands.

I was shocked to see many social sellers, marketers and so called marketing gurus continuing to post marketing/sales information and content throughout Friday night and they continued through Saturday and Sunday. Their posts showed a real disconnect with the concerns and the focus of most people around the world. Posting marketing messages and inspirational “sales” quotes only demonstrated a lack of understanding of the global picture and audience interest.

These posts also made it clear that these marketers were using pre-programed or robotic messages. The use of software-based tools is not the issue.  In my opinion the problem is the “set it and forget it” attitude marketers take today. Yes, these tools save time and effort, but they come with drawbacks as we have seen in times of crisis. Attention must be paid to the messages and information being sent out. A poorly-timed post can damage a personal brand, the reputation of a business or cause other harm.

How can you prevent looking insensitive, greedy or just out of touch? The following are some strategies to consider:

  1. If you are marketing socially, monitor the news or have team members monitor the news every day of the week, including nights, weekends and holidays.
  2. Have a system set up that will allow you to react quickly. You may need to have the ability to post on all social networks at once an appropriate message or order that all posts stop. If you manage this yourself, this should not be an issue. Make sure to test your plan and, in addition, be sure you have the ability to shut down programed posts via your smartphone or remotely.
  3. Have the ability to quickly shut down or suspend programed posts and responses. This may be tricky if you use a digital marketing agency. When an event occurs, over a weekend or at night, there should be a policy or system your business and your agency have agreed upon. You need the ability to order the shut down or have a policy in place that will allow your agency to shut down social media activity. Make sure to discuss this with your agency when developing campaigns and when signing engagements. Poorly timed posts and those that continue on throughout a crisis can hurt your brand and your reputation.
  4. Wait to react socially to breaking news and trends. Often initial news reports about a major incident are flawed and inaccurate. Wait until the facts are clear to formulate an appropriate response. In the case of the Paris attacks, it was clear very quickly what had occurred. However, in many situations the root of a crisis cannot be determined so fast.
  5. Don’t respond because everyone else is responding. Sometimes being silent is the best policy. Consider carefully how you are going to respond and don’t post just for the sake of being seen.

Watching and being sensitive to horrific events unfold before our eyes is unfortunately part of the world that we live in today. Understanding the messages that we project during these periods of time is critical. Monitor your marketing and social media and be prepared to make changes or, in other words, react appropriately. Those who use social media spend significant time and energy building their brands and reputations. Don’t let poorly timed or scheduled posts cause damage that pre-planning should have prevented.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 



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