Don’t Abuse Social Media

by Vered DeLeeuw

“Should we offer to donate $1 to the relief fund for every new like we get?”

Whenever a client asks me if they should, in any way, harness a recent tragedy to gain more followers, more views, more sales, my answer is always a resounding NO. The client may or may not choose to accept my recommendation, but I make it very clear, that placing themselves in a position where they stand to gain something – anything – from a tragedy, is not just tacky and unethical, but can seriously backfire.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, Epicurious, the food and cooking website, made a serious mistake, tweeting promotional tweets that tried to capitalize on the tragedy.

As websites around the web started calling for the immediate release of the person who did this from their duties in the company, I couldn’t help but feel momentarily sorry for them – these past couple of days must have been anything but pleasant for whomever was behind those tweets.

But we all have to pay for our mistakes, and theirs was a major one. Because really, there’s no excuse for this type of tweet. What were they thinking? When tragedy strikes, brands do and should tweet short “so sorry” or “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims” messages. But trying to gain something from a tragedy, that’s just wrong.

The Epicurious Boston tweets were glaringly tacky and obnoxious, but subtler attempts to gain something from a tragedy should also be avoided. So, for example, if Epicurious had tweeted something like, “we’ll donate $1 per retweet to a Boston victims relief fund up to $1000,” I’m not sure how the media would have reacted to that, but I think this type of tweet, while not as stupid as what was actually tweeted, is also a mistake.

As a brand owner, if you want to help, just help and do so quietly. It’s usually tax deductible and it’s good karma. But don’t ask me to tweet for you anything that connects your marketing efforts to a tragedy. It’s just not good marketing.

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