Last night, just a few hours after a devastating tornado tore across several Oklahoma communities, it was clear the death toll was going to be much higher than initially thought.
As I write this the morning after, I’m especially thinking about the children and adults killed in their school.
But last night at about 9pm as I searched for news and links on Twitter about the damage - I had been offline for a few hours - as the shock in Moore, OK, and other areas was still fresh, I cringed reading inane social media-related tweets from several people across the U.S. that I follow.
Links like… stories about how many hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, reviews of social media books, and their appearances and upcoming webinars and conferences.
The people sharing that can’t-miss content couldn’t even offer a single tweet to at least show they were even aware of the tornado.
The scheduled tweets were on for some of them. But others were tweeting their self-promotion in real-time.
A quick check showed me they also were tweeting their crap immediately after the news of the tornado broke. Tone-deaf if you ask me.
Go ahead, I guess, if that’s how you want to tweet.
But I don’t share that philosophy, especially when cable news is balls to the wall live shots from a tragic, still-developing story.
We’ve had Newtown, Boston and now Oklahoma, in the last six months.
When big, heartbreaking, stories break, it’s okay to take a break.
There’s no harm in taking a few hours off to show that you’re human. Your “audience” for your tweets will still be there in the morning.
I will say, however, that I was encouraged last night when I looked at the streams of several people I know across the social media world who went silent, or shared news/thoughts about the Oklahoma tornado and/or how people could help the victims.
Their tweets validated the respect I already had for them.
The Interwebs were aghast last week, chiding McDonald’s for tweeting “we’ll be in touch” to Charles Ramsey after he helped rescue a woman held captive in a house on his street.
The story of the three women held in Cleveland is tragic. We can all agree on that.
And, we all have our opinions about when it is a good time, if ever, for a company/brand to jump into a news event, using social media.
And sure, we’ve all learned more about Ramsey since May 6, and since McDonald’s tweeted about him on May 7. (If you’re not aware, Ramsey said he was eating McDonald’s when he heard screams for help).
But the armchair social media gurus were certainly quick to call out the restaurant right after they tweeted, and of course, in the days since.
Even though none of those gurus and ninjas know the company’s social media culture inside and out or know how their decision to tweet on May 7 was made.
Should McDonald’s have tweeted what they did? That soon? Were they on the same page internally?
We all have our opinions on this. But really, that’s for McDonald’s and its employees involved in this to discover, debate and learn from.
We’ve certainly reached a point where companies and brands who see their name mentioned in the news, and living in the moment with what they know at that time, are finding it very hard to resist being nimble and creative - and doing “something.”
After all, there are millions of armchair social media consultants online during a news event offering their unsolicited expert advice, telling companies and brands what we should be doing, right?
But we can all agree that the kind of news event dictates the decision to tweet or not to tweet.
A kidnapping, with heartbreaking elements to the story played out for a decade, is one thing.
A U.S. Senator reaching down to sip from a Poland Spring water bottle over and over during a live televised speech is another.
By the way, Poland Spring was ripped for not doing anything in social after that. Yet, as some reports suggest, the company’s sales bumped up - and they didn’t say a word in social.
That was their call to make. They know their culture. Their team weighed the consequences of adding their voice to the story and made their decision.
Whatever the news event… For those of us who work in social, who will continue make decisions like these in the months and years ahead, we will continue to evaluate the cost of saying something against the cost of doing nothing.
These are often complex decisions to make. But they are not life or death decisions.
But if the news event that we’re tempted to chime in on actually does involve life or death, it’s best to sit it out in social.