Real-Time Social Media – Good and Bad

Social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, even texting, can give marketers, public relations managers, and leaders of organizations that ability to react quickly.  Effectively? Maybe. Maybe not.  Let’s explore some examples.

Red Cross Worker

During times of disaster, people are compelled to give. It’s difficult for us to send food, water, clothing to disaster zones. Money is the most portable method of helping us onlookers can provide.  “Mobile giving” reached new heights during the relief efforts in response to the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

Most donations in a disaster are raised within the first few days, according to The American Red Cross. When people are “in the moment” they are willing to donate. Social media gives us the tools to act quickly.

People are ready to give when disaster strikes and it’s vital that there’s a way for people to get involved quickly. Money is the fastest and easiest way for people to help.

Many people learned of the disaster via social media, followed it via social media, and donated via social media.  Anyone with a mobile phone and an account with a major wireless carrier could text “Haiti” to 90999 and make a a $10 donation. Records were broken.

“The Red Cross has raised $21+ million in $10 donations via mobile,” said Allyson Kapin, editor of Frogloop, a non-profit industry blog.

A social media success story.

Then there’s the other side of the story.

On Friday, July 11, a gunman entered a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. He shot and killed 12 people. Fifty-eight were injured in the shooting rampage.

The next morning, the National Rifle Association (NRA) tweeted this:

NRA tweet

The Tweet was posted at 9:20 a.m. ET on Friday by an account for American Rifleman (@NRA_Rifleman), apparently, the official NRA journal. It was deleted by 12:30 p.m. ET Friday.

According to the Huffington Post, “…the tweet came from the social media management software HootSuite, which allows the pre-scheduling of tweets in 5-minute intervals.” Because this tweet was tweeted at 9:20 a.m., it is possible that it was scheduled hours in advance, before the shooting occurred.

Followers on Twitter, Facebook, do not know a pre-scheduled Tweet or post from a real-time Tweet. There is a presumption of real time. Twitter users exploded with outrage over the tweet.

An NRA spokesman told CNN, “A single individual, unaware of events in Colorado, tweeted a comment that is being completely taken out of context.” The @NRA_Rifleman account was later deleted. “All of the American Rifleman’s tweets were gone forever, and the same was true for the retweets the magazine inspired. The Twitter account had roughly 16,000 followers” according to AdWeek Magazine.

It would be more than a week before the NRA tweeted again.  Social media silence. Not a real-time solution.

4 thoughts on “Real-Time Social Media – Good and Bad

  1. I can just imagine the dread the NRA felt when that tweet went out. Even if they had a scheduled tweet prepared those can be cancelled. The one major takeaway I’ve found is that constant monitoring is required. In one of the many articles I’ve read on the subject over the past few weeks it stated the importance of doing a “scan” of the current environment to ensure nothing has changed. Even when you have tweets/posts scheduled it doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax thinking your social media is taking care of itself. You need to monitor the current environment and then monitor any responses from your sent communication. I think it’s that “listening” that develops into a conversation that marks social media success.

  2. Automated messages, or pre written, generic responses can lead to disaster in a company’s social media presence. It’s like waiting on hold when trying to reach Bell, Rogers, etc, and the pre-recorded voice says: “Your call is important to us, please stay on the line.” After hearing that for the 10th time in just as many minutes, you quickly realize that no one really cares about your call. Same goes for social media platforms, although it does raise the question of what is worse; being ignored completely or getting a generic response?. I feel when you get a generic response to a sincere problem, it’s like they’re putting effort into not caring!

    By ignoring the problem, and hoping it would go away, the NRA opened themselves to more criticism, and were seen as being apathetic to the issue by a large population. Clearly they could have issued an apology, and even turned the tragic event into a reminder about gun safety. However, on the flip-side, they may have felt doing so would be damaging to their reputation with their target (excuse the bad pun) demographic, in order to save face with individuals that would not be part of their membership regardless of the incident.

  3. I think it is important that as individuals or as organizations we take responsibility for our social media interactions. While deleting the tweet and the account all together may have helped control the outrage, it does nothing to solve the problem. I think the NRA could have helped themselves with a sincere apology and a donation to the event/families that were touched by the tragedy. As a society we are willing to be more forgiving if we feel someone takes ownership of their actions.

    Overall, I believe the good achieved through this real time reporting is hard to match. Families can be in touch with their loved ones in record time even without the use of phones. People can provide much needed financial support and emotional support through messages of hope and prayer, in times of disaster. This ability to make our global world a little smaller, when it really counts makes social media something of true value.

  4. In the case scheduling posts/tweets it’s a real balancing act, especially if you have multiple people managing an account. I know with work schedules varying you want to know someone on your team is scanning your account and the environment after hours to see if your post tone needs to be changed/removed.

    Couldn’t agree more that so much positive comes from the real time response to disasters via social media. Here’s an article on Social Media being a lifeline in the aftermath of the Nepal Earthquake –

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