We’ve all found ourselves in a situation where a headline has made us stop in our tracks. On our personal profiles, we’ve changed our cover photos to show solidarity, participated in hashtags to show our timelines and the world that we cared, and monitored our feed for constant updates.
It’s not news that today social media has become the primary source of information. 140 characters and 60-second videos grab a hold of more stories and more eyes than ever before, dispersing global incidents faster and further and bringing closer to home.
With 66% of U.S adults receiving their news from Facebook (44% of the population overall) 1 it’s not a surprise that most Americans will hold on to what they see across their screen. However, it’s grown increasingly difficult to decipher between click-bait, satire, misleading, and hyperbolic content from real news stories and reputable sources. 2
The rise of social news as it relates to tragedies have also brought on additional fear and worry from the general public as to the real safety of traveling both home and abroad.
Being a travel advisor, you’re in a unique position to calm the concerns within your network with a perspective that really matters—your travel expertise. But should your business insert itself into the conversation?
If it affects a destination, supplier, or traveler group you service, yes.
Because our industry directly relates to travel and tourism it is a space where we should feel comfortable being the subject expert. We know and love our destinations and have made relationships with many of the people with whom we work. Sharing our concern and support for them in a time of tragedy shows that you care about them beyond the bottom line.
Do, however, use caution in your statements. Make sure you have the authority to say something and if so that they are communicated as your words, not your host agencies or suppliers unless you have permission to do so.
If the tragedy is local, yes.
Local tragedies are perhaps one of the hardest to deal with. On a personal note, you are concerned for your friends, family, colleagues, and yourself. Yet on a professional note, your business is a part of the community you serve. Acknowledging their grief is important to your established relationship with them.
If you are participating in or know of any relief efforts, donations, or collections to aid those who have been affected don’t be afraid to let your community know.
If your business is controversial to the issue, tread with caution.
Not all businesses belong in the conversation and often times your mere presence can be an offense. For example, how would a company known for fire extinguishers have been perceived if they began tweeting about the Gatlinburg Forest fires that occurred late last year? If you can think of a way that your input could be perceived as offensive, it might be.
How Should You Post After a Tragedy
LaunchSquad, a public relations and content marketing agency, says it best: “If you don’t have something real to say, don’t say anything at all.” That’s because social media is designed to be a platform for authenticity. Your followers and other users of the platform will sniff out (and call out) those who portray themselves as caring but have ulterior motives.
This is by no means an opportunity to promote. Anything. At all. Whether you are currently running a promotion for an alternate cruise ship, or a destination along the same coast line but an unaffected region, those promotions are best left for a later date.
Post on neutral ground
While this is your channel and your brand, keep in mind you’re acting on behalf of your company and host agency, not just yourself. Even as an independent contractor or solo entrepreneur you’re a representation of the industry at large. What you say holds weight and can quickly become a blanket statement that is applied to all agents.
Stop ALL scheduled posts in light of breaking news.
For those of us choosing to play it safe, continuing to post scheduled, irrelevant, off-topic, or promotional content could potentially be viewed as insensitive and dismissive of the issue at hand.
Instead, monitor the conversations on your social channels and revise posts in the days ahead to make sure your sympathy does not appear short lived.
Provide reliable resources for assistance and recovery
For destinations where we know we have travelers or locations that we regularly serve, provide them with relevant information that may assist any travelers who have been affected and their families.
If the incident is local, you can also suggest government agencies, fundraisers, and charities that are supporting victims and those who want to contribute to the aid and relief efforts.
Consider the source of shared content
While we often want to share information quickly, make sure to read all the information you share and be cautious about using a headline as a reference to the article’s contents. Retweeting, liking, or sharing more times than not implies an endorsement. Share neutral headlines, images, and (if you must) opinions surrounding the topic.
You should also be careful about using particular hashtags. Make sure to read and vet the conversation before adding your agencies input.
Talking about tragedies is difficult and everyone is not comfortable with the conversation. When in doubt about how it could go over with your consumers, or if you find yourself deeply questioning how it will be received, remember it’s better to say nothing than the wrong thing.
- “Nearly Half of U.S. Adults Get News on Facebook, Pew Says.” Nieman Lab. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
- Romano, Aja. “The Scariest Part of Facebook’s Fake News Problem: Fake News Is More Viral than Real News.” Vox. Vox, 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
- “How to Respond to Tragedy on Social Media.” LaunchSquad. N.p., 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.