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You are the media

19/04/2013 | Matthew Robins

Social Media Responsibility

When disaster strikes, the media adapt their output to reflect public reaction to the human impact. But is "the media" the BBC and CNN... or you?

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bomb attack, it was impossible not to notice the dramatic change in the tone and content of social media output. This is the norm now when bad news breaks, so no surprise there. The fascinating thing about social media, though, is that our view of events tends to be a fast-moving blend of facts, opinion and human reaction. In the olden days, the traditional media reporting fed us much more objective, fact-orientated content.

It is against this background that there has been some debate online this week about the "right" way for brands to respond in a humane way to high profile human tragedy.

It's easy to be cynical about businesses queuing up to broadcast a slightly more empathetic tweet or status update than the last guy, but there is always the risk of your public response looking trite in the face of indescribable evil.

Maybe the right thing to do, when all around us are sharing bad news of death and suffering, is to mainatin a dignified silence.

Kim Kardashian was certainly judged to have got it wrong. Maybe with her it was all a horrible accident - lots of prolific Twitter users schedule their tweets ahead of time.

Even Guy Kawasaki, with a million followers and a digital reputation to die for, fell foul of the rapidly evolving etiquette of social media response to disaster

So here's the thing - we're talking about brands having to consider their editorial policy.

That used to be the preserve of the mainstream broadcasters. We've all heard about TV broadcasters cancelling an unfortunately timed re-run of a certain disaster movie just after there's been a similar disaster in the news.

But we're all "the media" now. And you don't have to be a Kim Kardashian for a bad tweet to damage your brand.

The potential reach of our social output is almost unlimited. What an awesome opprtunity! 

But it's also an awesome responsibility. If your brand has an active social media presence, you have an editorial responsibility and someone needs to be able to take decisions in real time. 

A misjudged tweet can go a long way, very fast.