Social Media During Tragedies

By Ann Chen

Whenever a crisis or tragedy happens, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, the social media world is lit up by thousands of tweets and minute-by-minute updates on the latest news. Many tweets and posts of condolences and prayers are offered by individuals.

But how should companies respond to these events on social media? There is no universal response that’s appropriate for every event, but here several community bankers share their thoughts in light of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

Rhonda Foxworth, vice president and marketing manager, Bank of Ann Arbor, Mich.: We waited until it felt like we needed to speak. We found information to post that fit in with our mission (which is helping) and was a tangible way to help while expressing our condolences. While we were hesitant to jump into the conversation, it turned out that it was important to share in the national grief by posting.

Dorothea Henry, social media experience manager, Union First Market Bank in Richmond, Va.: As long as it’s sincere, I think it’s good to say a few words of respect before signing off the channel for a few days. Our bank offered thoughts and prayers on the day of the incident and then remained silent for a few days so the social networks could aptly provide a place for people to seek comfort and solace.

When we got back on, we shared information on how people could safely donate to Sandy Hook families.

Thomas Bingham, director of marketing, Kleberg Bank in Kingsville, Texas: I agree with Dorothea. It has to be sincere and can’t have even the slightest appearance of trying to take advantage of the situation. We posted a simple message of grief, and to help ensure there wasn’t any perception of us trying to take advantage of the situation, we removed our standard image watermark that we normally include in all of our posts. We also followed up later that day with some information on how parents could talk to their children about the tragic events.

Ann Chen is ICBA’s senior social media specialist.