Social in the time of #Ferguson

Last night the grand jury returned and did not indict Darren Wilson on any of the five counts in the killing of Michael Brown. Immediately after, the streets in Ferguson erupted into looting and violence. We could ask why you would release the decision at 9pm if not to insure that violence happened, we could debate if the decision was correct or not, or did the news media on site escalate the violence because the people had a captive audience?

All of these questions are valid and worth investigating, however I have not read all of the data released last night so my view on this event, likely as is yours, is skewed by what we have seen or in rare cases read leading up to the decision.

Instead, I would like to talk about social media last night, specifically the marketing that happened while Ferguson was burning. Many brands think that Twitter is a killer medium to talk to an audience, I am one of those people. I love the immediacy, I love the ability to get an actual discussion going in a way that is virtually impossible on facebook, and I love the ability to live tweet events and wire into what is happening right now. 

Last night I started tweeting a few minutes before the decision and continued well into the night chasing down rumor and reports of tear gas vs. smoke bombs, was there a gun shot or not, what buildings are on fire and retweeting or sharing that information to my friends who were doing the same thing.

Many brands however, were not paying attention last night.

In fact, there were so many brands who had scheduled deaf tweets about sales or promotions during the Ferguson riots it was embarrassing to anyone who markets for a living. So embarrassing that at one point Buffer, who specializes in scheduled social, tweeted this explanation out on how to not have your scheduled tweets or facebook posts go during the riots.  

So here are some of the worst in my feed last night and we start with a brand that should know better....radio, digital or otherwise, is known for their speed - this is not that case.

Star Wars fan? These are not the riots you are looking for...

Pinterest fan? Take a break from #Ferguson by "repinning."

Sirius XM The Highway has sent only 9000 tweets but last night they got this ill-timed go-cart one out.

Gary Vaynerchuk talks about this, how you should not schedule Twitter, because sooner or later this will happen to you and it will burn your brand. You can see him talking about Twitter below

Friends trust friends and the fastest way for a brand to burn through that trust is to do things like last night. If you want to use Twitter, that is awesome but make sure you know how it works. As a brand you have a responsibility to your audience and that responsibility extends through every hour of the day in the age of social. As with any medium, social is just one tool but it is one that you can build a tribe around that will help you into the next phase of your business, or you could tweet your next sale or widget during a crisis and watch as that tribe dissipates. 

Human beings are social creatures that seek out the communities that interest them, as a brand be interesting, be compassionate, be social.

Eric HultgrenComment