Should You Tweet During A Crisis? 5 Things To Consider

by Casie Shimansky on Feb 03, 2015
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There’s one thing Twitter is – always on. Hurricane Sandy. The Boston Marathon Bombing. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. The death of a deeply beloved celebrity.

Most of us know where we were during these big events, and we might even remember how our Twitter feeds responded – seemingly all at once.

For many social media professionals, social media isn’t just a job, it’s where they instinctively turn when news is happening.

How Not to be THAT Brand

Robin Williams’ death stands out as a recent prime example as I scrolled past posts that Monday night like “How to Find the BEST Wedding Dress in 10 Dress or LESS!” and “Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Twitter Engagement in Just 3 Minutes!”

Wedding dresses? Engagements? These hardly seemed relevant, and that’s because – they weren’t.

Not even remotely.

And I’m just one person.

But scheduling content is still an important tool for any brand. We can’t just take it away completely.

Sprout Social’s Vice President of Marketing, Andrew Caravella told us this, “Message scheduling is a crucial and necessary feature of social media management tools.” But he cautioned that “social scheduling is not a set it and forget it tactic. People must be cognizant of world events, breaking news and online activity that may affect the relevancy and appropriateness of a given message.”

Whether it is fair or not, when your business is tweeting during a major negative news event, offense can come quickly.

It’s important for social media managers to have a pulse on these events, and a plan in place to pause your scheduled content so at not to seem “out of touch” or insensitive to your audience when earth rattling news occurs.

Here are 5 considerations to make when a news story breaks:

1. Understand the weight of the story

twitter trends region

What we must consider first is the scope of the event. Is this breaking news trending on a local or global scale and will someone on the other side of the world care about and react to this event?

Stephanie Wiriahardja, Global Community Manager from HootSuite stated that during the Boston Marathon Bombing, HootSuite did hold off of any scheduled posts for the remainder of that day.

As a global company, however, they need to keep in mind those very global audiences and accounts.

Even through tragedy the world keeps spinning, so it is purely a matter of being in the know and being sensitive to those locations, stories, and case-by-case scenarios.

In the event that the story is a major tragedy involving the loss of life it is best to pause your schedule temporarily while you access who is affected, and then re-evaluate and monitor from there.

2. Who Makes the Call?

This will vary company to company but there should be someone delegated to make the decision to pause your posting schedule or simply adjust what is being posted in that time.

For larger companies, legal teams and PR departments might be involved, and for smaller brands this may purely be a judgment call.

The key here is to have an actionable plan in place ahead of any crisis – know who your “go to” people are, and consider how your audience will be perceiving you in these moments.

3. Do we have a relevant perspective?

The chances are, we don’t. Even if we do have a relevant, authoritative and applicable position, pausing any pre-scheduled tweets during breaking news is simply considerate.

No matter the size of brand, pausing or heavily monitoring scheduled content will prevent you from appearing to be “out of touch” and insensitive to your audience and the event taking place.

There may be times when you will be able to echo a message of help or support.

During the news cycle of Robin Williams’ death, a Tweet from Sesame Street struck a poignant and appropriate tone, but this was clearly on the spot, and not scheduled ahead of time.

Williams Sesame Tweet

4. How long should you pause?

Pending your audience and brand, as well as the type of news event taking place, it is typically best to pause for at least one day to allow your audience time to absorb the news.

This also provides adequate time to re-adjust your schedule and re-access your community’s emotions.

In the event of ongoing, long-term events, be very sensitive as to what you are sharing and continuously monitor your content.

5. How, technically, do we pause?

SocialFlow Pause

Source: SocialFlow

The how of pausing will vary depending on each scheduling platform.

Some platforms have a dedicated pause function built for this like SocialFlow, while others require you to delete and/or reschedule specific pieces of content (Hootsuite, Tweetdeck) or allow you to turn off your schedule for that day, like Buffer.

This is where truly getting to know your preferred platforms ahead of time, and having a plan, will come in handy.

Especially when considering that news happens quickly, and social media managers must have superhero like reflexes in order to protect their brands in these events.


The constant in social media is that there’s no one right answer to a dynamic and always changing environment.

The key is in the hands of the social media professional – who above all should have basic awareness of the world in which they tweet.

“Social media is, at its heart, about being social,” says Matt Moran, Vice President of Product Development at SocialFlow. “It is about what is most relevant in those moments, and what your community is feeling. You do not sit down to dinner with friends, wind up talking about your wedding, see a car crash, and then continue to discuss your wedding. Social mimics real life in that way.”

Do not lose sight of the fact that social media is, to its very core, a very connected group of people.

When crisis strikes, make sure to get your team together, have a plan in place, make smart decisions, and, if anything, err on the side of caution. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Post Author

Casie Shimansky (@TheNameIsCasie) is a Social Media Manager for the Cisco Talent Brand team. Based out of Orlando, FL she is often found roaming the theme parks, considers Mickey Mouse to be her patronus, and has a true affinity for...

  • One reason why brands go to social media and interact with customers is because they need to get to know their community members better and understand what they want and what matters to them. Being sensitive to crucial times of calamities and national security threats is one way of proving you care for your community. I agree modifying your posting schedule is a great idea. But, additionally, you can also tweet something relevant to what is happening. It helps refine the authenticity of the brand (shows that you actually care) while benefiting from talking about something that is trending (power of hashtags).

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