As a nation, as a society – we all experienced and witnessed the horrific events that happened yesterday during the Boston Marathon. Two bombs explored yesterday afternoon in Boston near the finish line where it injured many people and killed three. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Boston.
Social media was the major form of communication for reporters, news outlets, government officials, and professionals in crisis to communicate to their communities and other audiences. People were going directly to Twitter to get the breaking news of what was going on.
It appears that this crisis has raised two different perspectives from professionals in PR and social media. Some are writing blog posts about it while others are waiting till the authorities to update more about the situation.
There were however several trends we as crisis communicators in social media need to be aware of. Social media and crisis communications has evolved over the years, but there are some elements we have to incorporate into our crisis plans to make sure we address our messages in a timely manner, engage with our audiences proactively, and to respond to our communities with empathy and effective actions.
- Autotweets and updates from brands: Social Media Today came out with a great list of things to think about when tragedy hits and what needs to be adjusted. Many brands, marketers, and companies were still autotweeting their activities as normal – but this was not the time or place. In a time of crisis, make sure to turn these off – otherwise, people will not think you care about what is going on outside and may have other different perceptions.
- Social media users are cautious about what they read and see on social media about crisis: False rumors or information can be two of the biggest challenges for crisis communicators when it comes to sharing and managing the information going in and out about a crisis. There were certainly issues related to scams and misinformation about the crisis, but social media users during this horrific event did show some restraint. They were looking for information that had been confirmed from a source they trusted and was verified.
- Sending out prayers and thoughts out to those impacted in Boston: The response through social media as a platform to send out prayers, thoughts, and respect to those who were impacted by the blasts and traumatic event was huge. From brands to cities like NYC, the response of support for Boston was huge.
- When dark falls, light emerges with heroes through visual content: Photos, tweets, and video where shared and circulated across all platforms related to the brave men and women who were not running away from the blasts, but were running toward the blast to help others. From fellow runners to emergency responders to the Boston PD, these brave men and women are the true heroes for this crisis and tragedy.
- Understand how you respond to others in a crisis can be documented and damage your own reputation: This was a lesson Guy Kawasaki found out yesterday when one of his followers talked about how he was autotweeting during the Boston bombing crisis. How did Guy respond? He said that “Loving how people with less than 1,500 followers are telling me know to tweet.” In a moment of crisis, this was not at all appropriate and created a huge uproar on social media among his followers. Some unfollowed him because of this – and I was one of them. Soon after, Guy started sharing updates specifically related to the Boston situation.
In summary, we as a nation have to come together in the midst of this tragedy. Social media has shown to be one of the primary tools we have to use to communicate during emergencies and disasters when phone lines or cell towers are down. We have to think critically about the information that is being shared to determine if it has been confirmed or not, as well as whether or not we trust the source from which it came from.
We are part of this community and we will recover from this. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Boston.