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Autotweets Are Not Comparable to TV or Radio Ads

autotweets, schedule tweets

Photo credit: Flickr

There’s a debate over autotweets, or scheduled tweets during times of tragedy

This post kicked it off: Guy Kawasaki is too ‘popular’ to stop autotweets during Boston bombings. This post reinforced the point, with kinder language, but with words that bite: A Letter To Those Of You With 1,500 Twitter Followers Or Fewer.

And we’re off.  Knock down.  Drag out.  Online scrap.  It’s not productive.

The point of the post?

While the news about the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon was just being broken, and for several hours afterwards, most companies shut down their promotional efforts on Twitter and other social media.

Most people and organizations rightly came to the conclusion that to continue to hawk their wares while a national tragedy was unfolding (and people were using Twitter to get and exchange news) was a little insensitive, to say the least.

Most brands stopped. And while I generally dislike the term “personal branding” because I believe within a company — that is a team environment — it is divisive  some people have become brands. In a company, this means there’s an inverse correlation between productivity and ego.  

But there are cases where personal branding is essential to business. Michael Jordan is a brand. Beyonce is a brand. There’s a number of social media personalities who are brands, which is the case at hand.

Then the counterpoints started.  This post was an intelligent argument: Auto Tweets and Tragedy which says pointedly:

While I don’t agree with his response of “Loving how people with less than 1,500 followers are telling me how to tweet…” I do agree that it is his choice to tweet what he likes. It’s his business.

Another good post that makes a credible argument is this one, The Perfect Tweet, which points out there are dozens of crisis everyday around the world and life goes on.  On like a dangling preposition.

Finally, a third one that jumped out at me was this one, posted on the soon to be defunct PosterousAutotweeting During A Crisis. Tom, writes:

The whole “suspend your social marketing during a crisis” judgmentathon is a complicated mess

Agreed, no argument there. But the next point is this:

Do we expect brands to be able, on a dime, to stop their TV ads? Radio spots? Print ads? Events?

Maybe not.  But advertising has unlucky and unintentional failures every day.  Ads are coordinated well in advance and cannot be undone with the click of a mouse.  Social media is different for this reason — and for one far more important: Because breaking news happens on Twitter and often long before the mainstream media starts reporting it. 

In other words, the affected region immediately tunes into social media specifically to find information they cannot get elsewhere.  Don’t be that person that clutters up streams with promotions during a time of tragedy — especially if your customers are located in that area. If there’s a tragedy in Boston, but your target market is in France, you probably needn’t worry.  But if your customers are, might, could possibly be in Boston, or have relatives, friends or coworkers in Boston, you should be worried.

Corporate brands should tread carefully — that is stay quiet. Observe. Listen. Don’t try to be a hero publicly. If you want to help, do it, but don’t brag about it.

That goes for personal brands too.  Hey, you wanted to be a brand, now you are one, you’ve got thousands (or millions) of people watching what you do, emulating your actions, and looking to you for guidance.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

I’m not condoning the vitriol. PR pros ought to strive to be diplomatic. Running around the web pooping up comments and calling people out isn’t good form.  We all have our moments of weakness.

Sure, it’s your choice to autotweet or schedule tweets during a time of tragedy — like DJ wrote —  it’s your business. You live with decisions. Just be prepared to deal with all this jabbering as a result. From a business standpoint, it’s a distraction.  No brand, personal or corporate, has the time or emotional energy to get dragged into this sort of hubbub. You’re sellin’ nothin’ when you’re fighting fires.

The hardest part about earning a merit badge isn’t the process of getting there — it’s living up to the standard forever afterward. Abraham Lincoln is often attributed with having said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Be a role model. Be a leader.  Do the right thing.

  • Note:  the photo in this post can be found here

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