A Series of Unfortunate Events: Managing Scheduled Social Posts in the Wake of Tragedy

Hahn Public TeamSocial Media

By now, you have probably heard about the tragic shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend that claimed the lives of 49 individuals and wounded 53 more. The shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. If you live in Texas, you may have also heard about the stir Lt. Governor Dan Patrick caused with his tweet featuring Galatians 6:7 that was posted only hours after news had spread about the Orlando massacre.

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Many were quick to condemn Patrick (including the the Texas Democratic Party), stating the tweet was insensitive given the events that occurred earlier that morning. Disapproval of the tweet quickly circulated social media with many calling for Patrick to resign. Patrick’s staff claimed the posts were pre-scheduled and were not affiliated whatsoever with the Orlando shooting. The tweet was deleted four hours after being posted and Patrick released a statement on his Facebook page in an attempt to clear the air.

As a social media strategist, I was a little less abrupt (and dare I say — sympathetic) in drawing a conclusion. When I first heard about the tweet, my immediate thought was it was just an unfortunate scheduled tweet. However, it didn’t surprise me others were less-than-willing to believe the tweet was unrelated to the events, especially given Patrick’s outspoken stance against gay marriage in the past. The internet is quick to judge, thirsty for controversy and judgment is often drawn off of incomplete or false facts.

It’s very likely some individuals don’t even know that most brands and influential individuals create content for their social channels days, weeks and even months in advance or that tweets and posts can be scheduled ahead of time. Nonetheless, I still wasn’t going to accept the explanation without first examining the facts:

Claim #1: The tweet was scheduled.

The tweet was posted at 7 a.m. Since most scheduled posts are scheduled for the top of the hour or thirty minutes after, the signs lean towards this claim being true.

Verdict: Probably true

Claim #2: The tweet was unrelated to the shooting and the account always posts Bible verses at 7 a.m. on Sundays.

A look back at past activity on the account shows a tweet featuring a Bible verse is posted every Sunday at 7 a.m.

 Dan Patrick TweetDan Patrick Tweet

Verdict: Probably true

This isn’t the first time (and probably won’t be the last) an ill-timed scheduled tweet will go out.

Example #1

Women’s Health Magazine had this scheduled tweet using the term “bulletproof” go out the morning after the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting in 2012.

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Example #2

Just an hour after 34 passengers were injured in an accident on a PATH commuter train – the train that runs between New York City and New Jersey – the PATH Twitter account posted a scheduled “Happy Mother’s Day” tweet.

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Example #3

Scheduled tweets aren’t the only thing a social media community manager needs to worry about; they also need to be cognizant of any ongoing promoted social content. The below is a screenshot of a promoted tweet by the video game Game of War that was being advertised while the events in Ferguson, Missouri were occurring.

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How does a brand or influencer prevent themselves from falling victim to a similar circumstance? Follow these steps:
  1. As soon as you hear news of a large tragedy or your brand is involved with some unfortunate event, turn all scheduled posts off.
  2. Review all current ongoing promoted posts.
  3. Evaluate the scheduled and promoted content to see if anything could be misconstrued as offensive and/or insensitive.
  4. Gauge the current environment to decide whether it is appropriate to post to social media at that time.
  5. If uncertain, always err on the side of caution.