The events in Boston were horrible and sad and the instant it happened, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook became a stream of comment, concern and assistance for those in the midst of it all.
One minute things were normal and then my entire feed changed into one long scroll of Boston related tweets.
Well, most of my feed. Here and there there were people who I could tell hadn’t heard yet, or were tweeting news stories or whatever it is we all talk about as we blather away. However, as the minutes passed, I saw those same people come to the news and the feed evolved.
I wish I could explain how important that scroll was for me yesterday. My heart was breaking, my friends were afraid, people needed help, no one knew how bad it was, and we were all there together reading along — doing what small part we could do to share the news and share the pain in a way only social media allows.
I also decided, once the news broke, that any and all social media “work” I had planned for the day was going to have to wait. My job as Geek Girl Diva (the brand) was to shut up and get out of the way. My job as a person was to do what I could to be of assistance and do what I could to be part of the information flow to help others.
Others felt as I did. One, very specifically, was Janna O’Shea, who tweeted:
To reiterate an earlier tweet, don’t be “that” company today. Cancel your scheduled tweets/posts.
— Janna O’Shea (@dreamyeyed) April 15, 2013
And I, thinking it was totally on target and apropos retweeted and then sent a version of my own.
Note, neither one of those tweets had any judgmental language. They were opinions and, given the NRA tweet that went out the morning after the Aurora shootings, there was thinking behind it.
We both got tweets suggesting we were out of line to suggest such a thing and that there was nothing wrong with scheduled tweets and doing regular social media.
So, allow me to clarify. Nothing about this is “right” or “wrong”. It’s my opinion based on my experience as a user and broadcaster on social media platforms. There I was in the middle of a tragic event, reading Twitter as a way to cope and support others and the incongruity of some obviously automated tweet (or tweet from a blog post feed – I count those as automated) felt like a shock and stood out like a sore thumb.
I’m also not the only one who thought it might be worth looking into. Social media heavyweights like Chris Pirillo and Chris Brogan did some asking around as well.
Why tell companies to stop tweeting because of an American tragedy & not also ask them to stop for every country’s woes?
— Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) April 15, 2013
I’m guessing part of what precipitated both questions was the fact that people were suggesting that maybe yesterday wasn’t the day to do “business as usual”.
And my response, which may be the entire point of this post, was that it may come down to a calculation of “event magnitude vs. message amplitude”.
I think you have to ask yourself as a company, as a brand, and as a person, the following question. Is your doing business during something like yesterday is going to yield you more positive than negative results?
If you have, for example, 1.2 million followers and you just keep tweeting away as tragic events happen, that’s a lot of people who see you going on as if nothing is happening and, in my opinion, like you don’t care.
Loving how people with less than 1,500 followers are telling me how to tweet…
— Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki) April 15, 2013
Now, here’s the thing. I’m not 100% sure, but I’m betting people were suggesting that maybe Guy should tone down the automation and that he may have sounded callous in the wake of what was happening.
If that’s what he was tweeting in response to, well…that’s a lot of “amplitude” on just what you think of the people following you — and I’d be really interested to know. A quick search of tweets at him revealed a lot of irritated people.
And, just think would he could have accomplished if he’d used his powers for good? If he’d been tweeting from the beginning and helping spread the word? I mean, even if you’re callous about it, think about the RT’s and goodwill and general positives you would have gotten out of it.
Instead, because he didn’t take a moment to stop and ask himself about the “magnitude to amplitude” ratio. Instead, he pretty much amplified what a douchecanoe he can be.
In the end, maybe the takeaway is this — social media is social first and media second. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s any less noticeable when you look like the guy walking down the street during a tragic event passing out flyers for 5 bucks off a large pizza down the street.
You have a voice. Use it for good. The trick is knowing which “good” is best at the time.
Avoiding being a douchecanoe? Well, that’s just a bonus.
Peace and love.