They Said What?! On Sensitivity in Social Media and Blogging

social media sensitivity sandy hook tragedy

Last week's tragic events in Connecticut had many social media users talking about sensitivity as many brands and publications continued to share promotional content on Friday.


While my newsfeed was flooded with breaking news, updates and any information related to the horrifying school shooting, I also noticed a few brands still promoting sales, contests and giveaways. There was also the case of the NRA's extremely inappropriate tweet sent out 7 minutes after the shooter entered the school's premises that wasn't deleted until 12:15 EST, a little over two hours after the news reported about the shooting.


nra sandy hook shooting tweet


This might have been an accident or a pre-scheduled tweet however it seemed a bit ill-timed considering the current events. I wasn't the only one who felt this way though; I noticed a handful of social media managers and bloggers exclaim that if they saw promotional tweets, they'd immediately unfollow said brands.



It got me thinking about best practices and etiquette in social media. Where is the fine line between appropriate and inappropriate? What should a blogger and brand do when an unspeakable tragedy happens?


This isn't the first tragedy to occur where social media best practices and etiquette are put under the spotlight. When the Aurora shooting happened earlier in the year, brands who were offering discounts or promotions were slammed by certain online personalities and fans. Also, let's not forget Kenneth Cole's tweet during the Egyptian protest and American Apparel's Hurricane Sandy email blast that promoted a sale in the states that were hit the hardest during the storm.



american apparel hurricane sandy


Essentially, the main idea is that all online and social media content should be looked at through the eyes of their user. It maybe not be the time or the place for witty or sarcastic content.


For me personally, I believe that social media can be used to better the world, not just a marketing and promotional tool. This is why I found it disappointing that certain brands continued with their daily programming of content. it may seem harmless but to your reader (and consumer), it can look insensitive and selfish. I'm looking at you NRA with your tweets. However, to play devil's advocate, the day must go on, even when the most horrible of events happen.


My question to you is:

During a crisis, what should a blogger or brand do on social media? Continue on with normal programming or take a break? What do you think?

Please share your thoughts and opinion – would love to hear feedback from the community!


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10 Responses

  1. FashionEdible

    The American Apparel one is definitely inappropriate and the KC one distasteful. But the first one is confusing. Are we saying that they intentionally tweeted this? The article says it was an auto-tweet so that can’t mean it was intentional. It seems their fault here was to not be up-to-date on the news. I guess they should listen to the news more often?

    I think as bloggers we should definitely remember those that are going through tragic events, whether it’s through taking a break or through dedicating part of a post or a full post to those that have gone through inexplicable events. But to use recent events to advocate your brand….that is terrible.

  2. Elissa

    It was a really sad day. My office had the news on all day and my heart just broke every time a child recounted what they saw. People deal with things in different ways and to be honest I was so saddened by the days events that writing the next day’s blog post and being distracted by non-gun related social media was really what got me through the day (and I still went home early). I don’t think that continuing your day is something your should be shamed for. Certainly something as outrageous as the NRAs tweet is inappropriate but I continued by day with my usual SM rounds, I was just careful to be appropriate. I wasn’t sure how to handle it.

    My tweets from Friday from earliest to latest:

    ‏@style_wire An outtake from yesterday’s post! See the full post and details on the blog! #chihuahua #evie

    (Shooting occured)

    @style_wire Nothing like a lunch time escape to the mall 🙂

    RT @PrimandPropah I am going to work on spreading more positive energy to those in my life and those I meet. We need it in this uncertain world.
    @style_wire Is 6 pairs of black leggings excessive? #style #clothes #addictedtoleggings

    Was I insensitive? Because that certainly wasn’t my intention.

  3. Kylie

    As a mother I have not stopped thinking about the tragedy…I can’t even begin to imagine. I can’t get the thought of it out of my mind.

    If a brand uses a terrible event to promote for example American appeal then that is extremely discusting and distasteful.

    The fact is terrible things happen everyday all over the world. Some are more promoted than others…children are being killed in the Middle East, children are starving in Africa.

    I don’t think being silent on twitter is any help…I am sure the last thing the family’s are wondering about is what is happening on twitter.

    If the tweets are completely unrelated then I don’t see the issue.

  4. Birdette

    See if it’s intentionally using the event to promotes themselves, like KC and American Apparel did, that’s not on. But the NRA had not planned to coincide that tweet with the tragedy and I don’t think they can really be vilified for it, they noted the mistake and hopefully took it down as soon as they put 2 and 2 together.
    I think I tweeted my thoughts on the event, and stayed quiet for the rest of the day.

  5. Rachel

    Some of the later examples in this post, like Kenneth Cole & Cairo are in bad taste, and the NRA Tweet was a serious fail, but unfollowing people and brands for Tweeting promotional material through a crisis? That is just ridiculous. The shootings are a terrible tragedy, but should peoples businesses potentially suffer because of it, should their lives have to come to a stand still too? What about brands based in other countries? I’m British living in America, and as a result the majority of brands I follow on Twitter are not based in the USA. Yes, they acknowledges and set condolence Tweets etc. but should their operation be effected by a tragedy happening in another country, a whole ocean apart, which because we don’t have the same gun control issues etc. does not really effect us, aside from the sheer human loss of life element? The internet is a place for the whole world to gather, not just America. Making light of and trying to make capital from a tragedy is disgusting, but I don’t see why everyones lives should have to stop, all over the world. I’m not belittling what happened at all, but at the same time until this happened I did not even know where Connecticut was in America.

  6. MonicaP

    Out of respect – a brand should simply take a day out of the sales push and send out their concern, condolences, their support to what ever tragedy has taken place. This may not always be possible due to auto tweets and time zones, at first news of a serious incident, they should rally their marketing team to make adjustments to any campaigns that are scheduled to go out.


  7. Hope Howland

    Personally I feel that a sincere tweet of prayers & thoughts going out to those who are involved in crisis best… and then silence is golden… give it a day or two and then continue on…. All the while being aware of your content and if it remains approproiate to the situation….

  8. Bree

    I completely think promoting yourself/ making insensitive tweets has been a huge problem during this incredibly devstating and sensitive time. I keep trying to write my own article on just how devastating this tragedy is, it broke my heart reading about it, seeing it on the news. I can’t seem to even begin to write how heartbreaking this has all been, I havent been able to express my saddness because I am soon blocked off by tears. We all need to be sensitive and send our love to these poor families. It is not the time to be promoting ourselves and our blogs.