So when something crappy happens, what are we supposed to do online? The same things we do offline actually. Here’s what I’m talking about.

There was a historically huge Bangladesh factory collapse that killed over 1,000 people recently. My friend David posted a link from The Village Voice showing a screenshot of Joe Fresh, the retailer’s homepage, after the body count was posted:


OK so this is kind of ridiculous. Should Joe Fresh have done a bit more considering this was their factory? I think so.

Now posting a small condolence message is not quite the same as:


So this second instance of a brand handling a tragedy got A LOT more negative feedback on social media then the first one. Probably for a couple reasons:

  • For better or for worse, people seem a lot more sensitive about US-based tragedies. That said, it’s important to mention what is happening overseas in some cases so please mention something even if it seems far away… just know a US-based audience will react to a US-based tragedy more strongly as a general rule.
  • Acknowledge the tragedy if you want, especially if it affects your company.
  • If you go the acknowledge a tragedy route, don’t try to sell to people.
  • You can ignore a tragedy (without any or many negative consequences) if it has nothing to do with your business.
  • If you schedule social media updates ahead and something bad happens, skim your scheduled updates of accidentally offensive content. (Ex: There is a huge fire in your city and you have a post scheduled to go out called ‘Sell like your store is on fire.’ with a link to your latest blog post. Yeah, you might want to change that.)

In other words, you can’t be selling your stuff and be mournful at the same time. Your customers will think it’s kind of weird and creepy. And if you go the ‘we’re a sensitive company’ route, be prepared to wait a respectful amount of time before returning to your regularly scheduled program.

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