How To Respond On Social Media To Tragedies and Mass Shootings

Got a case of the Mondays?  Well, this week was a doozy after we all woke up shell-shocked at the mass shooting in Las Vegas.  It’s horrible, and even as I write this, I know that the words are far, far inadequate.  But, as a social media manager, there are some pretty important things we need to think about in relationship to tragedies.

When tragedies happen, people go to social media:  while it’s happening, live from the scene, posting their laments, and sharing news.  So, if your job is to manage social media for other companies, you need to understand what happens during a tragedy in the social inter webs so that your brand can appear tactful, respectful, and appropriate.

The Case For A Real Person Managing Your Social Media Profiles

Social Media Basics | Denver Social Media AgencyThe biggest thing I can say is that when a tragedy strikes, the best thing you can do is make sure you have a real person who is paying attention to what is happening online. Automated programs are great for saving time, but there is a limit to what they can do for you when organic things happen in our world.  For example, when a tragedy strikes like this week in Las Vegas, one of the first things your brand needs to do is look to see what you have scheduled to post throughout the week, especially immediately.  Again, having a live person take a look is vital.

But, then that opens up the question of how do you respond as a business/brand, or even as a person, to tragedy striking…

Here are a few different responses and tips to responding to tragedies and crisis situations on social media:

  1. Share a Lament.  One of the best (and most natural) responses to a tragedy is to express your sorrow over what is happening.  While there are a lot of those out there on social media when an event happens, sometimes the post is not for others who will see it, but more for a cathartic expression of your own lament over what is happening.  As a business, a person, or collective group of people, this response is never wrong to do.
  2. Go Dark.  As a brand or business, this is often the best approach to take because you are not drawing attention to yourself, and instead, allowing the news and information to go out on social media that needs to be there.  Whether people realize you went dark and deliberately didn’t post anything or not, you are showing respect for the situation in a simple way.  If you manage social media for a group of people that come from different backgrounds, this is often the best way to go because you simply close the door on any potential difference of opinions.
  3. Post as usual.  I don’t know that most people who post during tragic situations or the immediate aftermath choose to keep posting because they want life to move forward, or they simply forgot that they had content in the queue in their social media tool.  Either way, you will see people and companies continue to post their normal content, even after something tragic has happened.  Friends, instead of judging these posts, let’s give grace.
  4. Be Careful What You Share:  Yes, it’s sad that people will exploit tragic situations, but fake news happens all the time.  Make sure you are vetting your news sources and keep an open mind to what you are reading.  Test everything to make sure that the news you are reading is accurate.  IF, you decide to share an article or piece of news, make sure you are sharing from a reputable source before you do.
  5. Don’t get political.  When tragedy strikes the last thing people want is more political backbiting.  This is a time for respect and for love, not causing social media arguments.

Here are a few ways social media managers and thought leaders responded to the Las Vegas aftermath Monday morning:

“We halted all posts for this morning and let our clients know we did so. We will reassess for hyperlocal businesses later today. This morning, we want to be out of the way and allow people to get the news they want and also, just to feel, grieve and vent. There is time to market later.”

Shane O’Koon Shaps

“We have clients that changed their regular posts to acknowledge the tragedy and extend prayers for all. And other clients who halt all posting for at least a day. Totally depends on the client if you post or wait.” – Stacy Kennedy


“National posting should wait 24 hours. Local posting should wait until late afternoon evening. Be sure to double check content of scheduled/current posts that may be considered insensitive. That being said, pay attention to the latest developments and be sure to make any posting decisions carefully and with sensitivity. We have halted all posts, but ads continue.” –Laurie Hart Handlovits


“1. Prayer + civic action are not mutually exclusive. Join me in both.

2. Step away from social media coverage and toward real people for support, action, conversation, and being with each other in collective pain. Keep informed, but don’t stay glued. Our secondary trauma will not make us better helpers – it shuts us down and sends us into self-protection and blame-finding.

3. Adding this for our kids: All we can do is acknowledge the pain and fear, create space to talk about what’s happening in an age-appropriate way, and own our own vulnerability and uncertainty. Also important to put down some guidelines for watching and talking about it. We want them to ask us and depend on our answers, not those of their peers. And, of course, love them as hard as we can.” – Brene Brown

Whatever your company or you as a person decide to do, make sure you give some thought to it.  Emotions run high in so many directions when a tragedy or crisis happens.  And remember, the best thing you can do is have someone there putting thought to your social media profiles.  You’ll eliminate a lot of blunders simply by having a real person, who understand social media dynamics monitoring the situation and content.