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Social Media and Tragedy

This past spring we were all shocked when the news about the Boston Marathon bombings broke. As I worked throughout that day, I continued to receive emails attempting to sell me various goods and services. I also saw a Facebook post from a national brand that blindly asked “Having a great Monday?” which was a bit insensitive in the face of what was going on in Boston.

There are many examples of thoughtless social media posts during a tragedy. Some are business-as-usual, automated posts that on a regular day would be no big deal. And some try to use the situation to further their brand and marketing message. For example, Bing posted a tweet in 2011 saying they’d give $1 to Japan earthquake victims for every retweet they got. It was viewed as exploitative in trying to promote their brand.

Automation tools make managing social media easier as we can schedule posts ahead of time instead of having to constantly be thinking of updates throughout the day. However, these tools also make it incredibly easy to allow posts to go out as if nothing happened. Your customers may not be bothered by these business-as-usual posts. But what if they see it as tactless promotion?

As a brand on social media, it is important to not just promote yourself or your agency but to also think about the opinions of your followers, especially if you want that audience to grow instead of shrink. Even if you do not see a problem with allowing your scheduled posts to publish like normal during a tragedy, you might have followers who find these posts tasteless and possibly even derogatory. These people will unfollow you, and you will damage your online reputation.

The best way to determine whether to cancel scheduled posts during a tragedy is to look at your feed. What is your audience saying about the situation? Even more important, consider how you want to be perceived during a tragedy and react appropriately and respectfully. When in doubt, it is better to say nothing at all than to say the wrong thing.

There is no hard and fast rule for when to return to your regularly scheduled posts. Use your feed to gauge the conversation. If people are continuing to discuss the news and results of the tragedy, hold off on your post about how life insurance will protect a person’s family in the event of an untimely death.

Above all, do not use a tragic situation for your own benefit. It will always backfire on you. What does your agency do about its social media during a tragedy?

About the Author:

Laird Rixford, vice president of product development at Insurance Technologies Corporation (ITC), currently consults agencies nationwide on their online marketing initiatives. Laird and the Insurance Website Builder team have launched more than 2,000 insurance agency websites nationwide. In addition to Insurance Website Builder, Laird has designed the AgencyBuzz drip email marketing and lead management solution exclusively for the insurance industry. To learn more about ITC and its products and services for insurance agents, visit

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