Social Media Etiquette In Tragic Times

Social Media has changed the way the world communicates, and that includes the way news is broadcast and the way disasters are responded to.  Since the advent of television, we only thought news spread quickly, but now it spreads like wildfire with mobile access and 24/7 conversations on Twitter, Facebook and multitudes of social media channels.
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So what’s the protocol when it comes to netiquette (Internet etiquette) in the midst of a disaster?

When the bombs exploded April 15th at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I happened to be working online. I noticed several Social Media evangelists say they were suspending all posts for the day in deference to the tragedy.  I respect that decision, but found I didn’t want to go silent.  When tragedy strikes, I want the company and comfort of people.  I want to feel a sense of community – that’s a powerful draw of social media. So if you’re not going to remain silent, what are the rules?

Netiquette Guidelines in The Midst of Tragedy

1. Be sensitive. If you have pre-scheduled posts, take time to review them.  It’s likely that you’ll want to re-schedule them, even if they aren’t inappropriate.  Instead, join the conversation that has people’s full attention.

2.  If in doubt, leave it out. Be careful what you post in the heat of the moment. Remember, social media is completely public.  Firing off your thoughts in a rant might give you temporary satisfaction, but you can’t recall words you’ve posted publicly. The social media universe is rather unforgiving when it comes to stupidity.

3. Look for ways to help.  Agencies like the Red Cross as well as first responders and local agencies are using Social Media to find missing people, activate blood donations,  inspire giving, warn people away from dangerous areas – the examples are almost endless.

The challenge is to be aware there may be false tweets with bad information (yes, there are idiots who do that) and use only trustworthy sources.

4.  Edit sensitive details. Don’t disseminate graphic photos or details.  The fact that almost everyone carries a cell phone means photos and videos can be instantly uploaded. Some content might be a terrible violation of privacy for someone. Be respectful.

These guidelines are geared toward public crisis situations, but the principles also apply to personal crisis as well.

Social Media offers unprecedented global connectedness. It can be used for great good. Be discerning, choose your words carefully and be kind.  Guard your online reputation – it is of great value.

Develop your social media netiquette skills by joining me this week for “Say This, Not That: Essentials of Social Media Manners“. Take a Quiz NOW and Thursday you can sharpen the HOW. Register HERE

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