social media

How To Handle Tragedy On Social Media

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.

Want to read other opinions on this subject? Check out:

Social Media For Mommies

Donna J. Hanke lives and works in Bar Harbor, ME. She blogs about her Massage Therapy practice at You can also find her on facebook And, someday soon, she might even be on twitter!

Girl pointing on touch screen a social network memberConfession-computers intimidate me. That is beginning to change, so maybe I should start saying computers used to intimidate me. I am really beginning to appreciate them for the tools that they are.

This wasn’t always so.  I managed to avoid even owning one for most of my adult life. I finally broke down and bought a desktop about 6 years ago when it became apparent that it could streamline the management of my business. Duh! This winter, I purchased a chromebook so I don’t have to go down to the basement every time I want to check my e-mail. Maybe the next time I upgrade I’ll even be ready for a touchscreen!

I was a little behind the curve in joining Facebook, and when I did it was not for business purposes or even to make personal connections, but because I am a mom. It had suddenly occurred to me that although I might choose to avoid these methods of communication, my children are going to be growing up in a world immersed in them. They will need these tools to socialize, to network, and in their professional lives. If I didn’t understand what social media was or how it was being used, how on earth could I hope to guide them in developing healthy habits? Or how to use them safely? One of the main cornerstones of my parenting style has always been to model healthy behavior. So I figured I had better start with myself.

I signed up for Facebook the next day. I found that I do enjoy social media networking for many reasons, and am realizing how helpful it is as a business tool. I have discovered that I need to set time limits for myself. I also witness many users (adults! I guess we are all figuring this out) posting in a manner that I view as inappropriate. From the harmless TMI (or not so harmless TMI!), to posts that I read and think would you really want a potential employer to read that?.  And this will all inform my parenting when my children begin to use these technologies.

For a deeper discussion of this issue, I found this article pretty well-balanced.

If you have children using social media, I would love to hear what guidelines and boundaries are working, or not, for you.

What I Really Think About Facebook

Several times, I’ve heard people refer to me as ‘the Facebook girl’. The most common questions we get involve Facebook: how to use it for business and what people can/can’t see on your profile.

If only so I have an easy thing to link to when I answer Facebook questions, I thought I’d write a post about it today.

Fact 1: Facebook is a tool, which means we need to properly use it.
Whenever people get mad at Facebook, I get annoyed. Because here’s the thing: it’s a free tool. You aren’t paying for it. Facebook is paying employees to maintain the site, create improvements, hosting costs for all those photos you upload, and more. You know how you pay for magazine subscriptions, cable television, and other sources of entertainment but don’t pay to use Facebook?  Yeah, exactly.

How can you offer something for free that costs money? You offer advertising. You take advantage of the same tax loopholes as big corporations like Walmart or Target. You sell shares. Now you are a profitable company yet still offer a free service.

The second you become a paying customer, a shareholder, or a developer who solves a Facebook problem if they would only implement it, complain all you want. Otherwise to me, it’s the equivalent of people who complain about our government but don’t get involved in the political process.

And guess what? If Facebook suddenly wanted to charge, all the power to them. It’s their website, not ours. If you want some bit of information to be yours forever and ever, put it on your website. Because you own that.

Fact 2: Facebook is the new silly email forward, which means I will ignore a lot of it.
Those ridiculous things you used to get in your email inbox have gone onto Facebook… where I will also ignore them. Let’s address these two of these things I see the most often which I am ignoring/deleting like I was doing with these email forwards way back when:

Intolerant Posts
People on both sides of the political, religious, and other aisles we’ve created in society need to stop posting negative stuff about the other side. First of all, there are plenty of ways to make your point in a non-negative way.

Second, there’s a psychological phenomenon where when you talk about other people, the person that’s hearing you subconsciously attributes those qualities to you.  So if you are saying someone is arrogant, the person hearing you saying it thinks you’re arrogant. Think on that.

OMG Privacy Posts
At least every two months, I see a bunch of ‘the sky is falling’ status updates about Facebook privacy. They are usually a flurry of activity as they get copied from friend to friend. You’ll notice me ‘the Facebook girl’ never perpetuates these.

In response to this latest one: if you really think I am going to click on and change a setting for you, you are crazy. I have over 900 friends and not much spare time.

If you are using something, you need to understand it. You wouldn’t misuse your microwave (by, say, putting aluminum foil in it and shorting it out) and then bring the microwave back to the store and tell them it’s their fault it’s broken. There are hundreds of great blogs out there including Mashable and AllFacebook which cover Facebook and how to use it in detail. You can also ask an expert for help.

The good news? Misusing Facebook won’t usually cause an electrical fire.

If you are genuinely worried about privacy settings 1) Go to your privacy settings on your profile and put your shields way up and 2) Don’t share things on Facebook you don’t want people to see. Which brings me to…

Fact 3: Facebook is my workplace, which means I will respect it.
Despite evidence I see daily, Facebook is public. If you wouldn’t want your boss and your grandmother seeing it, don’t post it.

Go look at my Facebook page if you want. These are all things I don’t mind you seeing: pictures of my dog, what I ate for dinner. Have you ever seen what my bedroom looks like? A picture of me doing any kind of illegal substance? A mean comment about someone else? Exactly. This isn’t me putting up a front; this is my public persona. A curated version of who I am that I am showing you on purpose.

You know where I go to relax? Pinterest. There, no one expects anything of me or wants to interact and instead I can just look at pretty pictures. (Alice’s version of this is Imgur.)

As Facebook evolves, it’s been interesting to watch how people use this tool. Heck, how I use the tool.

But as long as a majority of you respect this free resource by treating other users with respect, I think I will be grateful for what it does and tolerant of its shortcomings. Otherwise, I’m going to move onto the next social thing, and gladly.

How Do I Get More Links To My Site?

There are one of three ways people can get to your website:

1) Using a search engine to look up some term(s) Ex: Google, Bing, Yahoo
2) Referral websites (sites linking back to yours) Ex: A link to your site is posted on Facebook or your local Chamber’s website
3) Direct traffic (this is people typing in or clicking on a link to your site directly)

The top ten referral links on this website for this month. Some are social media listings, some are blogs, and some are search engines.

The top ten referral links on this website for this month. Some are social media websites, some are blogs, and some are search engines.

If you want to read a post about search engines, check out this one. You can also look at everything tagged ‘seo’ on this site.

SEO (search engine optimization) is a combination of techniques that lead more people to find your site on search engines. I actually kind of hate the phrase (it conjures up for me the internet equivalent of sketchy used car salesman) but I am forced to use it because 1) people care about it and 2) what I do for clients actually does help them do better in search engines.

Is it magic? Not really. While reaching the summit of a mountain might seem magical, most of the work involves preparing and the climb to get there.

Is it hard? Not really. It’s more of a consistent targeted effort 1) get more content on your website and 2) to get more links coming into your site.

How do you create more content (part 1)? This is where a blog can come in. This blog post is that other part of SEO (part 2): link building.

More links

Let’s say Website A has 10 links coming into it from other sites, and Website B has 1000. All other things seeming equal, which one will seem to do better?

How do you get links coming into your site? First, understand who is already linking. You can use Google Analytics for this or you can go to and type in “” and see everything linking to it.

How do you get more links? My website can give you some clues:

1) Use social media and share your website on it.
2) Network with other bloggers (it helps to blog yourself). You can offer to do a guest post on their blog for example, which would give you a link back to your website.
3) Get any ‘free’ links you can, like a Bing Local listing for your business or a listing on that vendor’s website you buy $10,000 worth of product from every year.
4) Take advantage of the press and get links from their websites. You want the link and they are an (ideally) credible website to get a link from.

Crap That’s Stopped Working

These are the things that people used to do to build links. Some of these actually worked for awhile, some have always been ‘illegal’:

1) Write generic articles and post them places like EZArticles with a link back to their site.
2) Write one article and ‘spin’ it so it seemed different enough. Then post it a bunch of places.
3) Buying links or joining ‘link farms’.

People who work at search engines (and the search engines themselves) are smarter than this. This doesn’t work anymore. Links from these generic sources aren’t worth much, spinning will mark you as a content spammer, and buying links will get you blacklisted on Google.

Don’t believe me? SEOMoz and others smarter than myself can back me up.

So if you are looking for the website link building equivalent of lap band surgery, I’m sorry to say that in my world at least, it doesn’t exist. You’ll have to grab your sneakers and hit the gym like everyone else.

As you probably realize, a lot of ‘link building’ can be accomplished with blogging and using social media effectively over time. Oh and asking for links from people you have actual relationships with. 

So check out your link situation now, trying building links for six months then do it again. At a certain point, links will just start multiplying on their own. (I’ve got over 3,000 coming into Breaking Even and I can tell you less than two years ago, it was half that amount… in other words, momentum can build once you get going!).

Connecting With Other Bloggers

What’s one of the best ways to get more traffic to your blog and get better at blogging faster? Being friends with other bloggers.

Blogger friends you know in real life can be a great resource. But let’s say you don’t know any bloggers or, more specifically, you want to talk to other food bloggers to get more specific ideas for your blog called All Mac and Cheese All The Time. (Are there ‘mac and cheese’ blogs? Actually yes there are several!)

Like any relationship, you don’t want to meet bloggers and begin immediately leeching on them. You have to build up a rapport first before you ever ask for a link to your blog, advice, or any other blog-related favor.

Stage 1: Hey I’m Here

The first thing you want to do is let a blogger know you are reading. Yes, part of connecting with other bloggers involves reading their blogs. (If you thought you could get out of this without showing any interest in other people, sorry.)

In this stage, you are simply reacting to another blogger in a way that they notice.

One way to do this is to leave a comment on their blog. Here’s a blog called ‘From Away’ that I commented on:

Key to blog commenting 1) Read the post, 2) Be sincere, and 3) If you want your face to appear, go to and register your email for a free account.

Key to blog commenting 1) Read the post, 2) Be sincere, and 3) If you want your face to appear, go to and register your email for a free account.

As you see, I left a pertinent comment (not just ‘Nice post’) and I linked to my blog in a non-obnoxious way. So if you follow a few blogs and leave comments over the course of a few months, the blog author (in this case Jillian) will get to know you by name and sight, even though you two have never met.

Don’t comment on *every post a blogger does though, makes you seem desperate. Play it cool, dude, you are courting these bloggers.

In the social media world, you can do this by replying, commenting, or liking their blog post. They’ll start seeing your name or Twitter handle and say, “I wonder who this person with fabulous taste is.”

Stage 2: Hey I’m Sharing Your Stuff You’re So Cool

Once you’ve been making yourself visible to the blogger, it’s time to take your relationship to the next level. Now you have to share their stuff to your network.

Here’s my cousin Celina sharing a blog post:


My cousin Celina liked my blog post and shared it with her Facebook friends. Awww. That 'Awww' is how bloggers feel when you share their stuff.

My cousin Celina liked my blog post and shared it with her Facebook friends. Awww. That ‘Awww’ is how bloggers feel when you share their stuff.

So yeah, if you’re a blogger, you can share a link to another blogger’s post on your Facebook page, on your Twitter account, or on your own blog. They’ll notice the traffic spike… and if you do it in a way that associates your name with said traffic spike, they are going to like you. (P.S. The iStockphoto use was completely intentional. If you read the blog you’ll see what I mean.)

Stage 3: Hey Can We Talk Sometime?

So you are becoming something of a blog groupie. You’ve been reading comments, you’ve been sharing their stuff. You have asked nothing of them. This is the way true friendship works people so good job!

Over this time in your blog reading, you are probably going to powerfully connect with a few bloggers because you like their stuff and end up liking them as people. When I think of this, I think of my relationship with J at Budgets are Sexy and Kelly at Almost Frugal. Love them!

Now that you are contacting your bloggers directly, there are any number of things you might want to do with them. You may want to interview them for your blog, or ask them some blog advice… you could want any number of things from them actually.

As a blogger, I get pitched at least once a week (As a former daily blogger, I was pitched way more back then). Here’s a fairly typical email I got last week (Think of this as ‘how not to do this’):

When you contact your new blogger friends, don't do this. Remember it's about relationships people!

When you contact your new blogger friends, don’t do this. Remember it’s about relationships people!

Here’s the thing, even if you do ask for a favor in that first email, at least the people you are talking to will know who you are because you have gone through the first two stages0. What I’m showing above is an email version of a cold sales call. Don’t do this unless you want to face more rejection then acceptance.

If your message is personal and you’ve actually done the thing you are asking the other person to do (like your Facebook page, leave a blog comment, etc.) then you are much more likely to at least get an email back.

Stage 4:  Hey Let’s Do Something Together!

Here’s what’s weird, you are actually going to make friends from blogging. Yeah, like Phil from London who is now one of my best friends… I met him from my blog. Cool right?

If you’ve been corresponding with a blogger, reading their stuff, etc. it might be really cool to do something together. Maybe you do a podcast or guest blog on each other’s sites for a week… It’s up to you really. And now that you are friends with this blogger, you can combine your powers and get more done. More could mean more traffic to your blog but it could also mean more interesting topics/kinds of content, more opportunities to sell your product(s), or other versions of more… In our case, Alice and I got an awesome place to stay in London for three weeks last spring.

If you blog long enough, you will get to this point of having blogger friends. But remember the internet is like real life. You wouldn’t go on a first date and immediately ask the person to be your boyfriend. You wouldn’t go to a job interview without looking around a little at the company’s website. Do your homework and build relationships in the blogosphere and you too will have a great blog that many people you don’t yet know will get to see.

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