When news broke at the beginning of the week that comedian and actor Robin Williams had died after apparently committing suicide, the social media world immediately flew into a flurry of mournfully-themed posts about how much Williams' work had personally touched their lives, and how much he'd be missed.
Such a reaction is only natural considering how popular of an actor Williams was. It also raises two important questions: To what degree should your company's social media sites pay tribute to a celebrity who has recently passed, and what kind of approach should be taken? Hopefully the information below can provide helpful guidance.
Don't Jump the Gun
Russell Brand, Megan Fox and even Subway spokesman Jared Fogel have all been victims of celebrity death hoaxes in recent years. Such hoaxes have become so commonplace in today's culture that a person's first reaction is often to assume news of a celeb's passing must be someone's idea of a sick joke. In the case of Fox, all it took was a #RIPMeganFox tag to start trending on Twitter before people began wondering what the fuss was about and if she had truly died.
Rather than risk making people start to panic across your social media pages, never report a suspected celebrity death until multiple sources like CNN, Fox News or the BBC have confirmed it. The clearest confirmation comes directly from the celebrity's representatives. Even then, use words cautiously, being sure to rely on phrases such as, "The actor died of a suspected drug overdose." Don't use language that could make people assume you somehow got early access to unconfirmed information.
Consider Carefully Posting Educational Information
When actor Paul Walker died in a car crash at the end of last year, fans around the world were left wondering what went wrong, and whether driver error, or some sort of mechanical failure caused the accident. Investigators eventually determined speed was the culprit, because the actor was traveling approximately 90 MPH just before the impact that unfortunately killed him.
That news is certainly bleak, but it's also a potential opportunity to post something on social media that reminds people of safe driving tips. For example, a retailer such as CJ Pony Parts could offer suggestions about how to enjoy driving Ford Mustang cars without ignoring the rules of road, or perhaps talk about some of the safety features on the newest models of the cars. Once evidence came to light that Robin Williams took his own life, some websites decided to post suicide prevention hotline numbers in hopes of helping people who may be suffering in silence before it's too late.
These are certainly examples of when it'd be necessary to proceed with caution. In the worst-case scenario, social media followers might accuse your company of using a celebrity death as a self-promotional platform. Done correctly, such social media posts could help people who are struggling or need information
Give People Room to Grieve
Immediately after a famous person dies, many people turn to social media as an outlet for expressing their grief. That's probably because it offers easy access to others whose lives were similarly affected by the individual's work. There's no harm in using your social media pages to let people unload their sorrows, but you may want to moderate the content more carefully than usual.
Death tends to bring out very strong emotions, and it can often make people resort to fighting and bullying all while hiding behind the presumed protection of a computer screen. Frequent and diligent moderation requires time and effort, but it can help prevent things from getting out of control.
There are obviously issues to consider before mentioning a celebrity's death on your company's social media feeds. Steering clear of the subject altogether could give you a reputation for being cold and unfeeling, but the tips above could help you cover a touchy subject with confidence.
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