With the coronavirus spreading are you tweeting inappropriate content? When to pause your auto posts!

Estimated read time: 7 minutes

We see it when there are emergencies happening around the globe. Automatic, pre-scheduled tweets are going out that have nothing to do with what’s happening and sometimes even are inappropriate. One example happened in 2015 during the Paris attacks:

Julie Perrine ran across this post on Facebook:

the 13th

And right on top of this post Julie was seeing this post:


paris trendingClearly, not great placement of the presumably pre-scheduled post and obviously the poster didn’t know what else would show around it in somebody else’s feed. And certainly I’m sure the intent wasn’t to comment on the Paris attacks. The post was later deleted. But the terrible news out of Paris was trending on Facebook and Twitter and it was in the news for a while.

I actually do tell partners that it’s OK to sometimes insert themselves into breaking news events, but incidents like this are not in that category. The only way I would recommend in cases like this to get involved is to share condolences.

As the coronavirus is gripping the globe reevaluating what were sharing as a brand on social media is important. And especially reevaluating what has been scheduled.

Brooke Sellas
Brooke Sellas

“We’ve paused our own content and asked all clients last week to do the same or consider sharing ‘relevant’ content to this time,” said Brooke Sellas. “Not everyone listens BUT everyone is coping in their own way and we are trying to be respectful of that, too. ‘Our way’ isn’t necessarily THE way.”

Bob Cargill

“It’s obvious during a time like this to see which brands have their social media programs on auto-pilot,” said Bob Cargill. “Their set-it-and-forget-it approach to sharing content online tells their audience they’re either not paying attention to what’s going on in the world or they just don’t care.”

The coronavirus is having a financial impact on many companies and some marketing and sales activities have slowed down. But what we are saying in our social media posts and marketing messages can have a long-term impact.

David Beebe

“These are wild times, but here’s the first thing you should do before anything else: turn off your marketing automation and pause your scheduled social media posts,” said David Beebe. “This isn’t about stopping your sales and marketing activities, it’s about changing your content strategy, messaging, tone, and going all digital for now. Your automation, and lack of effort to login and pause it, until you refine messaging, makes you look tone deaf and lazy.

“Also get out and be proactive in your communications now – you shouldn’t be sitting on call after call develop a strategy. Get the right people on your call and make a decision.“

And some scheduled posts are  just totally outdated with changes in events and situations. Parody Twitter account AdWeak said: “BREAKING: Brands That Had Clever March Madness Social Posts Ready To Go, Totally … Pissed.”

The March Madness basketball  tournaments-like other sporting events-was canceled. Having a scheduled tweet go out certainly would not look good.

How to evaluate your scheduled posts

Back in 2015 – during the Paris attacks – most social media platforms didn’t even have an emergency stop button. That’s different today. For example Buffer – a popular social media scheduling app – has a “pause queue” button.

For some teams that could be dozens and maybe hundreds of posts that need to be paused and reevaluated. Quickly see what needs to be deleted or pushed to a later date after the epidemic. And adjust your messaging appropriately.

Evaluate if they’re relevant in the current situation and update the ones that are not. Consider postponing some or outright deleting them for the time being.

How to adjust messaging

How to successfully do that can be a tricky balance. For example, some techniques can be seen as trying to exploit the situation. On the other hand sharing content that’s useful but also helps your business can work for the audience and the company.

Show empathy

At the very least I would recommend that brands are showing empathy and are helpful. For example I saw a note from a travel industry company that basically told customers that cancellations were not allowed under policy. … “does not cover cancellations due to events outside of our control such as disease or government actions.”

Certainly that’s true for many companies in the travel industry and yet the Marriotts and American Airlines of the world are offering much more flexibility due to the circumstances than what their original policies outlined.

Related: Marketing during an epidemic 

Don’t send messages that say nothing

This Gartner blog post dives into this topic further. In a nutshell don’t send messages that don’t say anything that customers actually have to know. Don’t send me a message letting me know you care about me if there’s no other information included that’s helpful.

Useful products and content

There certainly are products and content that are helpful in the current situation.

There is content that should be shared and there are also products that should be promoted and that are helpful. For example, I wrote a lengthy blog post the other day with tips on working remote. Today I spent my morning starting at 6 a.m. doing radio interviews around North America covering the topic.

There certainly is interest in the topic. There also is an interest in what tools to use for remote work and some of the companies that provide those tools are running very targeted campaigns. One that I recently saw  what is this project management tool for remote teams  which served me this ad:

They sent me to this landing page:

I also got an ad for a VPN – which isn’t that necessary if your company is cloud-based but still relevant to the current situation.

The LoopUp landing page which I got two after clicking on their ad even mentions the coronavirus.

LoopUp is a conference call software. If I don’t already have the tools that help me do the job these ads certainly are helpful. So are certain social media posts as long as they’re relevant.

Related: Picking software tools

Content Marketer Nathan Collier put it this way:

“Don’t stop sharing your content, but also don’t just act like the pandemic isn’t happening. Focus on being as helpful as you can to the people who follow you. My audience is a lot of freelancers who work from home, for example. So we have all this experience working remotely and working from home. That information is in high demand right now for companies that are shifting to a work-from-home workforce. Write about what you know and share it. … the people who focus on helping now are the ones that will be remembered later when things start to pick up.”

Kristina Podnar

Kristina Podnar reminds us that the strategy depends on the brand.

“There needs to be a serious consideration around the type of content and messaging, what users might be going through at this time and how it will be perceived. For example, a travel agency might offer a slew of ‘virtual excursions’ that individuals can leverage during these times of isolation. Getting offers or describing the best places for trips this fall might not land so well given that nobody is focused on vacations at the moment.”

“My advice is to consider that users are going through and how much they can absorb, as well as what is appropriate. Allow employees and content producers to work within a framework so they know the limits, but can be creative and come up with new content and solutions in the meantime. Companies that are innovative, are bringing relevant content (or even lighthearted information that is useful) will stand apart for their compassion and humanity, rather than just product pushing. Those that do the opposite will suffer, at least in the short term, with prospects and customers turning away.”

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