How Soon is Too Soon for Social Media?How soon is too soon when it comes to carrying on with business as usual in the wake of a massive tragedy? It was mere days ago that the horrific and unanswered events of the Boston Marathon bombing rocked the headlines and there wasn’t a soul online who didn’t express their opinions about it via social media. Mere months ago, a mentally ill young man gunned down a school and murdered his mother and it held us all absolutely captive as we mourned before our grief turned to rage and the world sought the audience of the Internet to sound off.

But what do we do when Twitter has become the most instantaneous form of communication between ourselves and the world at large? Instead of checking the news on television like we did some 10 years ago, millions of us refreshed Twitter and clutched our chests, posting updates and retweeting directions from Boston officials in order to help wherever we could. Honestly, I have never seen so much Internet camaraderie as I did mere days ago. Upon my feed, people retweeted helpful information to those people in Boston who they could reach via the popular social network. Things like “We’re three miles away and have empty beds and first aid” and phone numbers to call to get the names of runners for family members who wanted to check on their safety. People retweeted information coming from the Red Cross on blood type availability, directions from the Boston Police Department that kept everyone updated. No, we didn’t look to CNN or MSNBC in this instance; we took to Twitter and fought to find the source.

Anger in the Aftermath

However, once the debris settled and the sun went down, our grief rumbled into anger and we wanted questions answered. Everyone gave their condolences, sought to defraud the fake charities set up to steal funds that were meant to go to the battered, broken, and disfigured, and to sort out the trauma. While the masses were attempting to figure out, personally, where to go from here, businesses that use Twitter and Facebook for social media and marketing had no clue what was next. How do you decide when to go back to business?

Personally, I released an article that day and I didn’t promote it on Twitter because I would’ve preferred to leave the lines of communication open to see more and to let people find out more about the victims of that heinous act. Now it didn’t bother me, because why would it? It’s just an article? However, there are companies that depend on social media to keep their name up and mass emails were passed back and forth between company owners and marketing departments to find out what was next.

Different Comfort Zones for Different Folks

I decided to take to my Twitter feed and some of my good friends to see how they felt about the situation, seeing as how they deal with business on the social media platform, too.

Bobby Loertscher, community manager for Zen Studios, felt it was a matter of decency.

“Our games are super mild, but even so, I am really careful with how I word each post so we don’t step on any toes. Right after the fact, I just assume that they (brands that promotionally tweet) are pre-scheduled posts, but after the news is widespread, I think even the big companies should take a breather for the day.”

Phil Kollar, gaming journalist who previously worked for Game Informer, felt that letting the air clear is the best thing to do.

“My personal policy is that I at least take a day off and let things settle. That said, I think everyone handles their reactions in their own way — so, I try not to judge how other people do it. I think the classy thing to do is back off for a while. I don’t want to make assumptions about who has seen the news, who hasn’t, and how other people prefer to handle it (the news).”

While Varian David, a self-promoting businessman who uses Twitter for his own company, sees things a bit more logistically.

“In a perfect world, I suppose a company can make a call and pull whatever promotion they had lined up for a day, just so people can mourn — but that’s going to cost a lot of money. If you are in a business, no matter what it is, you have to make money in order to survive — employ people and bring home the bacon. I feel taking a day off is a reasonable amount of time.”

The three of these people come from all walks of life on my Twitter feed, from the journalist working for a large, branded company, the community manager for a smaller game studio, and the small business owner who uses social media as a means to get his name out there. The three of them look to Twitter as a way to promote the work they’re doing and it’s complicated when your humanity tangles up with the promotional business of the day.

How Soon is Too Soon for You?

Honestly, I can’t tell people how and when it is decent to tweet or resume social media marketing, because it is all relative. I know, what a cop-out, right? I can only offer what I have done because it was how I felt at the time. When images were flashing on my screen of blood-strewn streets and sobbing static images of grief-stricken injured runners, the last thing I was thinking about was “But what about promoting myself? How can I do that today if all of this is going on?” because I’m a sensitive human being who happens to be an American, hoping to see her fellow Americans pull through a horrific tragedy. I’m part of a massive group of human beings out there in the social mediasphere, but sometimes we’re in a majority because of business and money — and that’s a shame.

How about you? How long do you think you should take — or how long have you taken — to resume business after major tragedies in the past? How soon is too soon? Do you own a business based on social marketing? What do you think is best in these situations, and how does it make you feel to see people promoting business amidst breaking news?

Image: Downtown Boston, public domain