Social media management needs to follow a kind of etiquette.

Generally, when national tragedy strikes and the white hot media spotlight focuses on it–like the murder of little schoolchildren in Sandy Hook–I reschedule or delete all previously scheduled social media efforts. I don’t want the brands I manage to seem insensitive by continuing on with any level of self-promotion when all eyes are riveted to a murder scene and their hearts are breaking at the thought of so many children dead in such a brutal way.

Taking a step back is just polite.

In a break with many others on social media, I also refrain from tweeting out or making a Facebook status sharing our heartfelt sympathies. It’s not that we don’t have heartfelt sympathies–we absolutely do!–and it’s fine for individuals to address those personal feelings. But when your social media handle represents a specific brand? You’re still calling attention to your brand! You’re saying DORITOS IS SUPER SAD ABOUT THIS!

Which is still saying: DORITOS is exploiting the tragedy of dead children to mention its super tasty and salty delicious crack chip. It’s tacky. It’s gross. It’s ineffective. No offense to Doritos; it was the first thing that popped into my head.

If there is a way to personalize it and use your audience to draw attention to a cause? That might be excusable. For example, if something awful happened in the town that houses your brand’s headquarters? Perhaps you could draw attention to charitable efforts the company is undertaking and encourage your followers to do the same.

Recently I’ve also seen some really inappropriate use of hashtags on Twitter. This floored me:

Cory Monteith’s Death: How TV Shows Handle the Loss of a Star #RIPCoryMonteith #Glee

— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) July 15, 2013

The Hollywood Reporter using #RIPCoryMonteith as a way to drive page views to a story about other dead TV stars. I thought that was pretty disgusting, actually. The man’s just died. You can debate the cultural merits (or lack thereof) of people using RIP as a hashtag–I’m against it, for the record–but clearly fans were using it to, you know, send out their public condolences, and not to drive page views to their magazine’s related content on the death of a popular TV star.

If it seems rude to do it in person? It’s more rude to do it on Twitter (despite what so many anonymous trolls might lead you to believe). Nobody can hear your tone of voice online so it’s important to ensure your brand’s social media face is a polite and kind one (unless your brand is being an insensitive jerk).

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