Social media becomes a source of both information and support during difficult times such as Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and right now during the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas. Facebook’s check-in option allows people to quickly notify family and friends that they are safe. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube allow us to get the latest information and video, plus discover a multitude of ways we can help.

However, there’s been some criticism lately that social media allows us to express sympathy but remain all too passive in the face of tragedy and disaster. The “Prayers For…” memes have been roundly criticized for their passivity, yet several different versions are already circulating on social media in relation to the Las Vegas shootings. Is it enough to express grief and shock? Probably not, but it’s a very difficult line that brands, businesses, and thought leaders must walk.

While we are all deeply saddened about the tragic attack, thought leaders and brands can appear as if they are capitalizing on tragedy if their response isn’t carefully measured.

During difficult times in our world, we at Weaving Influence recommend a few common-sense steps to follow on social media.

  • Consider going dark. During times of great tragedy, if your brand can’t help provide solace or relief, consider just pausing for 24-48 hours. This isn’t the time to worry about reach and engagement numbers, it’s the time to let the news take center stage.
  • Express sincere sympathy. If you decide to continue social posting, review anything that’s been scheduled to make sure it’s still appropriate. If your brand’s voice is normally funny or sarcastic, tragedies are a time to briefly change the tone. And, don’t express a tired cliché—express sincere emotions, but try not to make it about you or your brand.
  • Share helpful information. Getting as many people as possible helping victims is beneficial for everyone. Share information about donations, volunteer opportunities, and other ways people can help.
  • Pause and take your time. In the aftermath of a terrible event, it’s easy to rush in with a quick response; but take your time and carefully think about the message you want to share with your followers. When possible, offer hope and help. You can never go wrong with either.
  • Don’t go on with business as usual. Most importantly, don’t go on with business as usual. Huge national and international events shake us all, and occupy our hearts and minds for days and weeks to come. Don’t continue trying to sell your product during the first 24-48 hours on social media as though nothing has happened. You need to modify your message and be thoughtful and respectful.

Fred Rogers may have said it best: “To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”

On social media, we have the choice every day, not just during times of disaster and tragedy, to be a helper or not to help.

We’re choosing to help. We hope you will, too.

How You Can Help

Donate Blood. If you are in the Las Vegas area, emergency blood donation sites have been set up. If you aren’t, you can still donate locally. It truly is the gift of life.

Donate Money. Donate to the Southern Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross, or through the GoFundMe page set up by the Clark County Commission Chair from Las Vegas. Other pages are being set up to help victims, too. Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada is providing emotional and mental support for victims and their families. You can click here to help them.

Contact your elected representatives. Let your local and national representatives know how you feel about this act of violence, or disaster recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. If you see things that need to change, contacting your representatives is the first step, no matter your party-affiliations or political beliefs.