Imagine: You are someone who needs to post on social media. Maybe it’s for your small business. Perhaps you’ve managed to make your online presence your full-time job. Maybe you’re just minimally maintaining your account. Idk, you know what bucket you fall into.
As you go about your otherwise unremarkable day, you get the notification. A “Big Thing” has happened. It could be a death of a world leader. It could be an uprising at your nation’s capitol. It could be a major weather system causing catastrophic damage. The specifics don’t really matter. What DOES matter is that the clever interpretive dance you filmed to the recharting 90s sleeper hit suddenly seems very out of place and thoughtless to post.
What do you do?
This situation happens a lot more than you would think, especially in the era of the 24-hour news cycle. As important as maintaining your online presence is, your account does not exist in a vacuum. Sometimes your perfectly scheduled feed gets thrown out the window because of the next Breaking News alert. How do you know what to ignore, when to lean it, and when to hold posting? Major news events tend to fall under three main categories; Emergency Situations, Notable Deaths, and WTF Is Happening. Like with all answers in life, how you respond to these depend on context. Here are my general guidelines for deciding how to work around major “real world” events in a content calendar.
What Is It?: An Emergency Situation is something that is impacting a great number of people in a clearly dangerous way. Examples are things like mass shootings, major earthquakes, civil unrest… anything that people are going to want or need to pay attention to trusted sources of information in order to keep themselves safe or informed. These can be from worldwide events to hyper-local situations.
Should I Post?: If this is a life-altering event that impacts you, your followers, or the good of humanity, hold your posting (unless your posts are providing information and updates from reliable sources or you are the reliable source). A, people aren’t going to be watching your resin pour videos at that second anyway and B, you don’t want to be the asshole talking about resin ashtrays when there is an actual crisis going on.
If You Must Post: Sharing information from reputable sources and amplifying the voices of the people who are impacted is encouraged. Just make sure you attempt to check that the information you share is accurate and legitimate. No FakeNews.
What Is It?: A notable death is when someone well-known and influential shuffles off this mortal coil. Examples include major heads of state, beloved celebrities, or local people of importance. This can be subjective; The Queen’s passing was a noted event worldwide, but the impact was quite different for the UK than it was for the US. Celebrity deaths and their impact are going to depend on demographics.
Should I Post?: Your posting options are going to depend on your followers, the magnitude of loss felt by this passing, and if you are running a personal or public account. If your audience is going to be paying more attention to the news reports or tributes coming in, hold your witty standup routine until their focus shifts back.
If You Must Post: If you are running a business account or any sort of large public-facing account, consider if a tribute post is appropriate and confirm that any of your previously scheduled content isn’t going to be constructed as insensitive. If you are running a personal account, you can carry on as normal but don’t just post a tribute to get the engagement. There’s nothing cringier than claiming to be the biggest fan of someone who passed and then talking about how much you loved the band that they weren’t even in. However, a heartfelt tribute to someone who inspired you is something that can help build your authenticity.
WTF Is Happening?
What Is It?: Sometimes shit just happens and all you can say is “what the fuck is that”. The Oscar host gets slapped for a bad joke on live TV. The former President’s lawyer holds a press conference at a landscaping lot. The hot tech company launches a much anticipated new product with a funny name. Usually, these moments don’t have the same sense of urgency or gravity as the previous two, but they are pulling a majority of the day’s focus.
Should I Post?: This is going to be highly dependent on your audience, strategy, and personal preferences as well as the actual event that is going on. If you are running a public-facing account for a business or brand I would urge you to think hard about running with anything that is controversial or political unless that is a stance you are comfortable defending. Otherwise, if you think you can hold your own, save your evergreen content for when you need to fill a void and Lean In. These are literally the moments that social media was made for. If you are watching it happen, are willing to take the risk that not 100% of your audience will agree with you, and have something to say, do it.
If You Must Post: Be witty but don’t try too hard. Credit your memes if you’re resharing. Be prepared to handle the backlash if it doesn’t land. Enjoy the ride, but don’t be the account that drags the moment out beyond its expiration date.
As always, the biggest rule is that there are no hard and fast rules. Flexibility and overall awareness are what save the day in these situations. If it feels right to post, or not post, your instinct is often correct. If you know your audience, know your strategy & posting schedule, and have a spoonful of common sense, you can negotiate your way through without having your account look out of touch or insensitive.