When disaster hits, there is one thing that is inevitable– the marketers jump on the opportunity and the public responds via social media. And it’s usually not pretty. One great thing about the reach of social media is that the public can now voice our opinions when we see something that we  know is wrong. However, as a small business marketer, it can now be confusing to know what is appropriate marketing-wise during a disaster.

With the Boston attacks still recent in everyone’s minds and the the Oklahoma tornadoes that just occurred many marketers are “news jacking” (inserting your ideas into current news issues, to generate more coverage for your business). I have also personally seen hatchbuck users who are helping out in disaster areas and have handled their marketing strategy appropriately.

Here are some tips on how to show sympathy and appropriately adjust your marketing strategy during a disaster time:

1. Hold off the self promotional tweets

When a disaster hits,  it might be wise to un-schedule any tweets and hold off any promotional posts your were planning for a day. Post out something to show you are sympathetic and are aware of the issue. Consumers relate and would rather do business with a company that they can relate to. Show that you are just as affected by the tragedy as everyone else. Companies that continue to promote themselves and leave scheduled tweets (especially ones that could be perceived wrongly) only seem concerned about one thing– themselves.

2. Help, but don’t advertise it

If it makes sense to help with the disaster and you have the means to, then do it! Consumers can really get behind a company that does more than just sell a product. That said don’t blast out tweets, Facebook posts and e-mails about how great and helpful that you and your company is. That is still self promotion. There are ways to let people know you are doing good, without just telling them.

For example, if you want to collect cans or clothing items for tornado victims, ask your followers, fans and e-mail list to contribute. Create an e-mail campaign to let your customers and prospects know how they can help. You will get a higher volume of donated items and get the gold star for helping without having to say “hey everyone, look what I did.”

3. Don’t news jack during a disaster

News jacking gets a bad rep when it is not always bad. Putting a funny spin on a news story can help trend your tweets and can help people connect with your message. However, companies that try to news-jack a story during a disaster time can seriously offend a large audience. In 2011, when much of Egypt was rioting, Kenneth Cole released the following tweet:




(photo courtesy of money.cnn.com: http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/03/news/companies/KennethCole_twitter/index.htm)


The Twitter-verse exploded with outrage at the company and Kenneth Cole issued a public apology. There have been countless issues with employees improperly tweeting or posting about something at an inappropriate time. Don’t lose fans and customers because of a blunder. Think smart and lay low as a company unless you are asking your audience to help you help in some way.