Going Quiet on Social Media in the wake of tragedy

Going Quiet on Social Media in the wake of tragedy

This is a post I have been holding off on writing for a while. You see, back in April, my daughter's great grandmother passed away. Tai Ma, as she called her in Cantonese, was 85 and had been in failing health for years. My wife and I thought we were blessed when Grandma was able to attend our wedding in 2010. And then a year later, when our daughter Cadence was born, words could not describe the joy that my little girl brought this lady who had worked so hard all her life. First as a farmer in China, and then later as she raised her five children and helped with all eleven of her grandchildren (and great grandchildren!).

So, when this woman who meant so much to my family passed away, it couldn't be business as usual for me. I decided to Go Quiet. That meant not posting any new blog entries for several days, but also getting a rein on social media posts as well. That turned out to be a little harder than it sounds.

If something happens with your business, or perhaps in your community, you need to be prepared to Go Quiet if you feel like its warranted. Go Quiet is actually a nautical phrase from submariners. When you're in a submarine, noise within your sub can travel through water and be detected by other subs. If it was suspected that another sub was nearby, the order would pass through the boat to Go Quiet. Engines would stop, movement and talking would cease, and your sub would drift quietly until the captain decided otherwise. In this case, it means a complete cessation of online activity and communication. I wanted to stop all posting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Like most emergencies, this works best if you try to prepare for it ahead of time. Create a Go Quiet procedure and keep it someplace where you can access it easily and keep it updated. As accounts change or new automated services are incorporated, update the document. If you have multiple people in your organization, document who is responsible for what and how changes will be communicated. Once you have the initial document created, it shouldn't require much time going forward in terms of maintenance. While I had given my own business some consideration previously, I had not gone so far as to document what needed to be done, so I had extra work to do when the actual tragedy struck. I will take you through the process I followed. 

Grandma passed away on a Wednesday morning. When we got the news, we immediately packed up our daughter and drove to the hospital to be with my wife's family. When we got home, I started to make arrangements to be off work and offline through the weekend. I emailed clients with current projects to let them know I would be out of the office for at least three business days, and began shutting down some of the automated social media activity I have going on.


My first step was to check HootSuite and stop any published or automated posts. I don't schedule a lot of posts through HootSuite, but I do like to use the Auto Scheduler if I want to share a new blog post or something else to all of my business profiles. The Auto Scheduler will space each post out so that I am not blasting all my networks at once. I also used to have some RSS feeds plugged in to automatically share new posts. None were active at this time but I checked to make sure.


My next step was to look at Buffer. I use Buffer to spread out shares of posts to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Sometimes they are articles that I'd written a while back, and sometimes they're articles from other people that I found on Scoop.it. For some accounts, I have dozens of posts queued up ready to share. Fortunately, all I had to do was delete the posting times for each network. I wrote them down and knew that it would take just seconds for me to we t them up again the following week, and that my queued posts would still be there, waiting.


JustRetweet is a service where you can ask to have one of your tweets retweeted, and in exchange, you will ReTweet other people's tweets. Is a great way to share (curate) interesting articles, as well as expand the reach of your own tweets. Once you connect your Twitter account, you can browse through other people's tweets and add them to your queue to be sent out. JustRetweet will then push those out to your Twitter account at whatever frequency you want. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to turn it off, and the maximum frequency is 2 hours, so I knew it would continue to send tweets for a while (I didn't know how many I queued, but suspected a lot). So, I contacted JustRetweet and got a response right away from the owner, Chris. Chris was sympathetic and incredible. He went into my account and manually rescheduled over 80 tweets to wait until the following Monday to go out.


Another service that I've talked about a lot is Triberr. It is similar to JustRetweet in that you will choose other people's articles to share, and those will go out at a predetermined frequency. And again, my frequency was 2 hours, and there's no way to simply turn it off. On Triberr you do have access to your queued shares and can easily delete them. However, I had already taken the time to approve some great articles from some great writers and did not want to just delete the shares. One deleted, I wouldn't have the opportunity to share them again. Instead, I chose to set my frequency to 24 hours, and just delete the one post a day that went out, when it went out. 


Paper.li is the one service that I missed that afternoon. Paper.li is an automatic curation of articles that goes out late afternoon each day. It's an online newspaper of sorts that gathers articles on social media and technology (or whatever topics you choose). I like it because it automatically mentions one of the included authors on Twitter. But since it's just once a day and not something I think about too much these days, I completely forgot about it. I did monitor my Twitter account throughout the weekend and just deleted each post each day. Not a big deal at all.

Once these relatively simple steps were done, I was able to completely focus on family and preparing for the weekend memorial service. My daughter, too young to truly understand what was going on, was aware enough to see grandma at the memorial and say, "Tai Ma sleeping," and bow with us as we honored her great grandmother one last time.

Dealing with a personal tragedy or one within your community is something that, unfortunately, nearly every business is going to have to face at one time or another. Like any issue, the more prepared you are before it happens, the easier it will be to deal with. This is, however, different from how a business might respond to a national disaster or a crisis in another community, like those we've seen on the news recently. That kind of an event, and how you and your business respond, is the topic for another discussion.

If you're wondering how you should deal with a specific kind of situation, please feel free to leave a comment below and we can work through it together.

Image courtesy of James Jordan, Flickr.

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Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner

Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner - a title he invented to represent his holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blogging, social media, email marketing and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales. He is an award-winning Blogger, Speaker, and Author at The Social Media Hat, and Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse (formerly CMO at SiteSell).

As Brand Evangelist, Mike works directly with other social media educators, influencers, agencies and brands to explore and develop profitable relationships with Agorapulse.