In the Wake of Tragedy: Where Do Brands Draw the Line?

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 4.35.21 PMIt’s been a rough couple of weeks for social media marketing. If you were on the Internet at all then you are aware of the major backlash brands received for chiming in on 9/11. While social media is an integral part of many marketing campaigns, the events of the last couple of weeks leave me wondering where and when brands should draw the line.

Capitalizing on trending topics is nothing new; in fact it is common practice. As marketers it is our job to search for topics that make our clients relevant to their audience – holidays and events are super easy to plan ahead for. Many times, consumers like seeing their favorite food brand wishing them “Happy Thanksgiving,” and people want to share a cute picture telling them to “Relax on Labor Day.” But, when special events surround tragedy and the people are seeking solace, perhaps it is not a time for brands to chime in.

As a social media manager, I had a really hard time watching the events that unfolded on 9/11 specific to brands tweeting and posting about the attacks. I am in the unique position to see both sides of the story, and from my point of view, it is a lose – lose situation. On one hand, people don’t want to see posts from CVS or AT&T. They want a day to talk freely on social media about how they feel in the aftermath of the worst attack on US soil in recent history. I understand as a user of social media myself; sometimes you just want it to be about people and relationships and not about consumerism. On the other hand however, I understand that brands want to take a stance. They want to be leaders, informers, and a reliable entity for their constituents. Not saying something about 9/11 could potentially make their loyal customers feel as if they don’t care.  The line we walk everyday is incredibly thin, and sometimes, especially in the heat of an incredibly hot topic, that line shatters and we are left do deal with the aftermath of the choices we made.

Here at Cyphers we actively made the choice when we were writing editorial calendars to step back on 9/11. We felt it didn’t behoove any of our clients to chime in. I am happy with that choice, especially now that brands are being chastised for their tweets and posts.

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