How should your business respond to tragic events on social media?

How should your business respond to tragic events on social media?

The tragic events in Manchester were shocking but also disturbingly familiar. There have been too many atrocities, too many silences, too many occasions which require us to show our solidarity with others. On Tuesday, I found myself implementing my emergency procedure on clients’ behalf with the depressing knowledge that I have done it too many times of late.

It is also striking how much social media comes into its own in times of crisis. Not as a marketing tool, an advertising platform or a PR machine, but a vehicle for letting loved ones know that we are safe, that we are loved.

Yes there are the odd Twitter trolls peddling hate, but the overwhelming feeling was one of togetherness and hope. Strangers come together to offer condolence and search for meaning or understanding. Much good can be done and long may it continue.

From a professional point of view, brands have to tread incredibly carefully in such difficult times. It’s easy to seem crass, insensitive or downright offensive, and there are plenty of social media posts to make one wince.

I spent most of my career in television, so the drill is instinctive. What have we got coming up? What needs to change? What needs to go in its place? It helps, to be honest, to have something that feels like automatic pilot which you don’t have to think about too much.

Every business reacts differently, obviously, and everyone on the receiving end will react differently too, so these are very much my personal sensibilities, and those which I hope my clients share.

Thought 1 – Turn it all off

Whenever there is a major event, my immediate action is to turn off the scheduled posts for all of my clients’ feeds. This is to give me some breathing space, consult clients and decide the most appropriate response.

If your social media is run by a team, have this conversation beforehand. Let them all know that if an incident happens, that is the drill until you can give it some thought.

Tip: If you use Buffer or Hootsuite, there’s no button for this but you can dive into your schedule and just unclick today’s day. On Edgar, there is a handy ‘pause queue’ button (Buffer please take note)

Thought 2 – Make a thoughtful decision

Different situations require different responses, and this is really up to your judgement – but please make a judgement and don’t let things drift along.

For me, the events in Manchester were so horrific, and so close to home, that I didn’t feel business as usual was appropriate. People were using Twitter and Facebook to find loved ones, to express grief, to try and process the trauma that had happened. Even to those who were not directly involved, the world seemed to have paused for a while and absorb what was happening. With these feelings, no one really cared about scheduled tweets promoting your latest service or special offer. No one really gave a stuff about your latest blog post. All of my clients’ (and my) planned marketing content was turned off for 24 hours.  My newsletter which was due to go out was paused until the following day, and my latest article went unpromoted. It may sound harsh, but those companies that didn’t felt insensitive and a little complacent. Yes business has to continue, but actually, does it really?

If you decide that the incident is not a critical one, then there is no need to take everything down for a day, but do make sure you run through your scheduled posts to make sure that there is nothing jarring or insensitive which suddenly seems inappropriate.

Thought 3 – Create a response

Businesses are run by people, and we are all as capable as each other at expressing sympathy, empathy and sadness. Don’t feel you can’t make any comment at all, indeed it might seem odd if events go completely unreferenced. Your business has values, and if those are values of compassion then there is no reason not to share them.

It sounds cynical but I have a collection of appropriate images and quotes to use which I can locate easily. You will also find that very quickly, there will be sentiments and images that rise to the surface, that you can add your voice to. #StandTogether is good example.

Tip: Many companies create something quickly in Canva or Photoshop. If you’re going to create images or quotes to use, don’t put your logo on them. I think it looks crass, others may disagree but they’re wrong.

Tip: Brand accounts are not the place for controversial political opinions. ‘Our thoughts are with the victims’, or other messages of support should be your main priority

Thought 4 – Talk to people

We are all human, and we all want to engage with other people, especially in times of sadness. I was alone in the office on Tuesday and found social media invaluable for finding likeminded people to collectively exhale with, whether business associates or not.

If your business is in a position to help, then please offer to help.  If you have a large following, use that following to spread messages that need spreading.

Thought 4 – Pause, then carry on

And today is back to business as usual, grateful that we have that privilege.

What do you think? Do you think it’s the place of businesses to reflect, or carry on as normal?

The budget that would normally have been spent on promoting this post, will be donated to The British Red Cross Appeal for the victims of Manchester Arena.

How NOT to ‘PEPSI’ your social media video content….

How NOT to ‘PEPSI’ your social media video content….

Social Media Video Content by Emma Spellman

Our guest blog this week is brought to you by Emma Spellman from Oojamaflick

Marketing gurus spend months agonising over their client’s campaigns, but it’s the short films and social media video content that really bring on the cold sweats! If some of the highest paid marketing minds (cough PEPSI) can’t pull off a social media film, then what hope in hell is there for the rest of us? The good news is there’s boundless amounts of hope because we have something they don’t, ‘common sense’ – now there’s a creative concept.

Whether you’re a new venture at the start of your social media life or an established business changing tack to keep up with the pace of social media engagement – boosting your online presence with social media films is an absolute must. You don’t want to make a ‘Pepsi’ of it though and you’re terrified at the thought of looking like an arse on camera!!

Keep it real

Your customers really want to see your lighter side. The social media films that get shared, liked, loved and remembered are the ones that drop the facade. Forget this idea that you have to behave in a certain way because you’re a business. Everyone has a personality and trying to hide that on film will do you a disservice. I film a lot of ‘meet the team’ films where colleagues team build in all sorts of active ways or have a fun lunch date or coffee together. It’s here I see the real people. Real emotion. You’re a professional outfit – there’s no doubt about that, but there’s a lot of very different and amazing personalities under one roof and it’s these personalities that make the cogs turn. Let viewers go behind-the-scenes. If your Team Leader ‘show jumps’ and your Graphic Designer does ‘stand up’ – these are great visuals and great stories. Look what Strictly did for Ed Balls. 
OK – so you’re reading the above paragraph and you’re pulling some faces along the lines of, yeh right – there’s no way I’m doing that! The other option is to think about a client that really inspires you. Is there someone you’ve worked with that has truly benefitted from your business; someone that makes your day better and leaves an imprint on you every time you meet? If you feel like that then viewers will too. Let’s get them on film instead. An inspired, honest client testimonial is easy to film and when you extract the right soundbites in the edit with beautiful, relative visuals you have an impactful social media film to shout about.
I follow a beauty salon’s social media updates avidly, purely because they film product ‘role plays’ on their mobiles and they’re absolutely hilarious. They get their willing clients involved and create scenarios about fake-tan sprays and eye brow pomades that you just can’t forget and come to think of it I’ve purchased both products!  Now that’s a win, win strategy. The camera phone is an extremely effective marketing tool and you can do some beautiful imagery with it. The film Tangerine, entirely shot on the iPhone, won an Oscar! 

Keep it beautiful

There’s always the ‘beautiful images of your amazing business’ option, accompanied by powerful on-screen text. Let’s see those products up close and let’s see what you do in a visually exciting way. Get creative with words and grab your customers from frame 1. Keep it really short and leave them wanting more. It’s really easy to create this type of film and with some clever thinking you can roll out a stunning visual narrative. You don’t need thousands of pounds to make social media films; of course you want them to look amazing, but the idea is that they’re fast turnaround and they reflect the ever changing landscape of your business. You need good ideas, clever ideas, mind-blowing ideas. The idea is ‘everything’ and you can leave us filmmakers to worry about getting that idea on screen.  

Keep it short

The other thing you have to remember is this – and this makes me want to cry, to be frank! You do it, I do it, your customers will do it! We browse social media whilst we’re already doing something else. All those hours spent grafting and crafting a film and to think nine times out of ten it will be watched with no sound on a train, in the park, at the pub, or half-asleep on the sofa whilst you’re watching Game of Thrones!! Unless it grabs you quickly…it might not even be watched to the end of its little life. Your loyal customers ‘should’ stay on-board, it’s new customers you want to worry about. They’re picky! They don’t have much time and they’re already busy scrolling up the for the next best thing, which might just be a video of ‘the uncensored reviewer’ talking about how to prevent poo smells. There’s no hard science here, but I’m certain of three things –
keep it real, keep it short, keep it beautiful.  
Emma Spellman runs Oojamaflick films and  and has spent a career filming, producing and directing documentaries for ITV, BBC, Ch4 and Sky TV.
If you’d like to see more from Emma, or talk to her about your social media films, get in touch with her at, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter & Instagram