Best Practices for Social Media Crisis Management

Image of social media on a smart phone and "handle with care".
Photo credit: Unsplash, Ravi Sharma

Share this post


When growing your business, one of the key tools used today is social media. From establishing expertise to exhibiting thought leadership to building brand awareness, leveraging social media to tell your story can help increase your business’s recognition, traffic and sales. But when a tragedy strikes that impacts your community, country or beyond, we have one big tip: Read the room. 

Responding to a Tragedy

Recently, a gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, tragically killing 19 children in a single classroom along with two adults. In February, Russia invaded Ukraine, engaging in a war that continues today and as of this publishing date has left more than 3,000 Ukrainians dead. In December 2021, a wildfire ignited on a brutally windy day just south of Boulder, Colorado (where our company’s headquarters are located), and within minutes destroyed 1,200 homes and killed two people. When tragedies like these happen, what happens to your social media marketing? 

These moments happen in an instant and change the trending topic and tone on social media just as quickly. While sometimes the event might be hundreds or thousands of miles from your company headquarters, other times — as was our case twice last year (Marshall Fire and Table Mesa Boulder King Soopers shooting) — the events unfold just a stone’s throw from your employees’ and clients’ homes. Regardless of distance, that’s the time to sit up and take notice (and take action).

Social Media Best Practices During a Tragedy

Social listening is one of the most important to-do’s during a crisis. Listen to what your community (which could be geographical or based on an industry or service line) is saying about the situation. If you’re not sure what to say, pause your social media posts for at least 24 hours and don’t publish anything. Nothing appears more insensitive and tone-deaf than publishing your promotional social media posts as scheduled while others are mourning the latest tragedy. This activity could result in backlash in a very public social media forum — and then you’ve got another crisis on your hands. When it comes to social media crisis management, we recommend an immediate change of course for our clients. Every. Single. Time. 

Another social media crisis management tip is to educate yourself about the current event taking place. Find out what the facts are so that you can better know how to respond (if at all). This media bias chart displays the news outlets based on political bias, news value and reliability. If you’re looking for a politically neutral and factual media outlet to learn more, this may be a good place to start. 

Then, if you make the decision for your company to participate in the conversation surrounding the current event, decide internally what the company message will be before posting it on social media. Additionally, remember to research the most appropriate hashtags, if any, or find relevant social graphics to use in support of the recent tragedy. Another good option is to leverage your social media platforms to share links to the trusted organizations that are helping victims.

As time passes and you continue to practice social listening, reevaluate with your team when you would like to resume your “regularly scheduled programming” on your social media platforms and execute. 

Bottom line, reading the room is always a good idea on social media, but when a major event makes headlines, you don’t want to appear out of touch. If you’re already a client of Comprise, we’ll reach out to you and proactively pause social media during a tragedy, then — as your partner — we can discuss how to proceed and when to resume regular posts. 


If you would like to support any of the events discussed in this post, here are some recommendations: 

Recent Posts